Dáil told waiting lists have 'spiraled out of control' to over 900,000

Dáil Told Waiting Lists Have 'Spiraled Out Of Control' To Over 900,000 Dáil Told Waiting Lists Have 'Spiraled Out Of Control' To Over 900,000
Deputy Cullinane said the situation in University Hospital Limerick is dire with 43,656 people awaiting outpatient services, Photo: PA Images
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David Raleigh

More than 900,000 people are on health waiting lists, including a staggering 43,656 people awaiting outpatient services at University Hospital Limerick, Sinn Fein TDs have told the Dáil.

The party’s Waterford TD David Cullinane, who received the worrying statistics in response to a parliamentary question, said: “The figures are so stark that it is hard for people even to comprehend them. More than 900 people are on some form of health waiting list, either waiting to see a consultant or waiting for a hospital procedure.”

In a motion calling for the Dáil to recognise that “waiting lists have spiraled out of control, rising to 907,648”, Deputy Cullinane said a previous “big jump” in lists had “accelerated” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Of the more than 900,000 people who are awaiting treatment, 210,000 have been waiting for more than 18 months and 31,000 of them are children, and there is a human story behind each one of those people.”


Limerick Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan described the number of outpatients (43,656) waiting for treatment at University Hospital Limerick as “disgraceful” and this included “19,000 waiting over 18 months for a consultation”.

30 month wait

Highlighting the case of one of his Limerick constituents, in her 60s, who is suffering from cartilage damage to her knee, Mr Quinlivan said: “It inhibits her movement and restricts her lifestyle, her status or grading on the waiting list is urgent, yet we are advised that she will be waiting 30 months for an appointment with a specialist.”

“Thirty months of pain and limited movement. She will be 70 by the time she sees her consultant, this is disgraceful, my office has dealt with numerous such cases.”

Deputy Quinlivan appealed to the Minister for health, Stephen Donnelly, to consider implementing a “centralised referral system and an integrated waiting list management system (which) would allow for patients to be seen at alternative hospitals if those hospitals have available capacity”.

Deputy Quinlivan said the present system was directionless, like “a ship has no rudder”.

Minister Donnelly responded in the Dáil that apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, “waiting lists is the greatest challenge we face”.

He said he was aware of a constituent who did not have private health insurance and who was in “intense debilitating pain” and required a “hip operation”, but she was told “it was going to take two and a half years before she could be operated on”.


Mr Donnelly said when he enquired at the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Cappagh as to the reason for this delay, he discovered “the budget allocated for buying the titanium hips was gone” and “we were still paying all the overheads, but because of this broken system, Sarah and many other people were not being seen”.

Impact of the pandemic

“Three of the seven operating theatres in Cappagh were closed and surgeons were having their lists cancelled again and again,” Minster Donnelly continued.

The minister and the hospital have been asked for an update on these issues.

Mr Donnelly said he would “not stand over” a situation where children are “must wait in some cases for years for an MRI”.

“That is not acceptable. I will not stand over it. No government and no Member of the House would stand over it.”

Mr Donnelly acknowledged that, prior to the pandemic, “our waiting lists were too long, described regularly as some of the longest and worst waiting lists in Europe”.

He said, “the number of patients waiting for a procedure in one of our hospitals peaked in mid-2017 at approximately 87,000 people”, but that this figure has been reduced by 12 per cent.”

He said waiting lists were growing again “because of the pandemic and the cyberattack” on the HSE computer system."

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