Hospital waiting lists in the West & Northwest are among the worst in the country with over 152,000 people waiting for hospital treatment or an outpatient appointment.
That's according to a new report from the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, which has warned that the ongoing shortage of hospital consultants across a large number of specialities in the Saolta Hospital Group is restricting patients to accessing timely, high-quality medical and surgical care, and is contributing to growing waiting lists.
Mayo University Hospital has seen a 162% increase in outpatient waiting lists over the past 6 years, with a three-fold increase in the waiting list at Roscommon University Hospital.
There are currently over 127,700 people on the outpatient waiting list at hospitals across the Saolta group - which includes Mayo, Roscommon, Galway, Portiuncla, Sligo and Letterkenny University Hospitals.
Some of the longest waiting lists across the region are for routine, planned care particularly in Orthopaedics, ENT, Urology, General Surgery, Ophthalmology, Gynaecology and Dermatology.
Patients are waiting to see a consultant and then receive treatment for procedures such as hip or knee replacements, tonsillectomies, prostate biopsies and cataract surgery.
That's the situation with outpatients - while there are also over 17200 people waiting for inpatient or day case care across the Saolta hospital group.
Almost 6,000 of these patients are waiting more than a year, while a further 7,700 people are awaiting endoscopies.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association says the severe shortage of consultants in public hospitals is the main contributor to the delays in providing care to patients, and says we have a chronic recruitment and retention crisis, with one in 5 permanent hospital consultants posts either vacant or filled on a temporary basis.
They claim that the increase in waiting lists is not only due to Covid-19 or the recent cyber attack, but persistent underinvestment in hospital infrastructure over the past decade, including bed capacity and consultant staffing, which are both 40% below the EU average.