Over 35,000 appointments were missed at Galway University Hospitals last year as a result of patients failing to show up.
That’s according to the new CEO of the Galway Roscommon University Hospital Group, who made his first appearance in front of the HSE West Regional Forum this week.
Bill Maher used the occasion to defend the lengthy waiting lists across the western hospitals, with figures released in February showing that over 45,000 people were waiting on inpatient and outpatient treatment.
Mr Maher said that a number of measures had been introduced to help the hospitals meet national targets, which state that no patient should be waiting longer than nine months for an inpatient or daycare procedure.
These include waiting list validation, improved reporting and focus, more effective use of resources across all of the hospitals in the group, patient education and engagement, as well as increasing theatre capacity by opening previously closed theatres.
“In January, GUH had 9,901 patients who would potentially breach the target of waiting longer than nine months if they were not seen by the target date of 30 September.
“As of 19 April, we have reduced the number waiting to 5,524 patients and we are on course to achieve the SDU target in September. This is a tremendous achievement and I would like to thank all the staff throughout the group who have helped us get this position and who remain focused on achieving the target.”
However, he conceded that there were still over 40,000 patients on the outpatient waiting list across the hospital group and slammed the number of ‘no show’ patients that miss appointments each year.
“This reduces our capacity to see new patients and adds considerably to our waiting lists. We hope all patients make every effort to attend their designated appointments or to notify us in advance so that the slots may be offered to other patients.”
Mr Maher continued to add that a new validation process had been put in place to identify patients who had been routinely referred for the same or similar services at a number of hospitals.
“We expect the actual number of patients waiting to reduce following the validation exercise. We will then look at managing capacity and demand by converting follow-up clinics so that new patients can be seen and also where need be by adding additional clinics.”
Chief Operating Officer Tony Canavan also told the meeting that “significant progress” had been made in reducing the number of patients waiting for attention in the Emergency Department at University Hospital Galway, as well as waiting times for a bed in the hospital, through the introduction of ‘full capacity protocol’, the introduction of a Medical Assessment Unity and a Short Stay medical ward.
“We are steadily reducing the waiting times for admission from the ED since the beginning of the year. Since January, the highest number of patients waiting in the ED for longer than 18 hours was 12 and this occurred on 21 February.
“The situation improved in March when we had 21 days when there were no patients waiting longer than 18 hours and this pattern has continued into April. We monitor the bed situation very closely with an initial report every morning at 6.30am followed by a meeting at 8am to decide what actions need to be taken.”