Almost 800 children are on hospital surgery waiting lists of longer than two years as the Covid-19 pandemic and HSE cyberattack significantly worsened waiting times.
Fresh figures published in The Irish Times and supplied to Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill show that 36 children are on surgery waiting lists of more than four years, 109 are waiting more than three years and 645 are waiting more than two years.
Overall, there are 4,054 children waiting longer than six months on hospital surgery lists.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted in the last 19 months “as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic” and “more recently as a result of the ransomware attack”.
“While significant progress was made in reducing waiting times from June 2020 onwards, the surge in Covid-19 cases in the first quarter of 2021 and the associated curtailment of acute hospital services, coupled with the ransomware attack of May 2021, has impacted waiting times,” he said.
Eilish Hardiman, chief executive of Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), which governs the children’s hospitals in Dublin, said it had been “a very challenging fortnight”.
“We have more attending and they are staying in longer, which has meant hospital beds are at full capacity, which means we have children waiting in trolleys in emergency departments,” she said on Sunday.
Of the waiting lists for surgery, Mr Donnelly said his department, the HSE and the National Treatment Purchase Fund were focusing on improving access to elective care in order to reduce waiting times for patients.
“These plans include increased use of private hospitals; funding weekend and evening work in public hospitals; funding ‘see and treat’ services where minor procedures are provided at the same time as outpatient consultations; providing virtual clinics; and increasing capacity in the public hospital system.”
An extra €250 million has been allocated for 2022 to tackle hospital waiting lists and this will be used to pay for “additional activity” in both the public and private sectors.