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Waiting times for gall stone surgeries announced by UL Hospitals Group are “aspirational rather than factual,” a West Clare councillor has claimed.

CEO of UL Hospitals Group, Colette Cowan stated at last Tuesday’s meeting of the HSE Regional Health Forum West that a further delay to elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy surgery has been experienced as a consequence of COVID-19.

She outlined, “Prior to Covid-19, our wait time for elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy surgery was approximately six to eight months from date added. Because of the impact of Covid-19, it is expected that the wait time will extend to 12 to 14 months”.

Elective procedures across the hospital system “were severely curtailed during the first wave of the pandemic,” Ms Cowan flagged. Theatres access across UL Hospitals Group is currently prioritised for “emergency, trauma, time-critical and the most urgent elective procedures following a clinical decision in line with the principles of clinical prioritisation”. Resumption of services in recent months has been “incremental”.

Cowan was replying to a question from Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF). He asked fort the current wait times for gall stone surgery for public patients at University Hospital Limerick, the average wait prior to COVID-19 and the expected impact of the virus on future wait times.

Frustration was voiced by Cllr Murphy with the detail received in the response and the fact that elected representatives only received the replies to their queries less than an hour before the meeting. “Having 30 minutes to prepare with regard to the responses isn’t good enough. I understand ye are under pressure. We are asking the questions on behalf of the constituents. Having 30 minutes to look through these and get feedback is not working”.

COVID-19’s impact will be felt across the Irish health service for years to come, the Kilkee representative predicted. “The consequences are going to be played out in our health service for a decade. The pain and suffering of not being able to access elective surgeries is going to be a long and painful. We’re way past 12-14 months on this particular issue. The dates we’re looking at are aspiration rather than factual.

Chief Operations Officer at UL Hospitals Group, Noreen Spillane acknowledged that a recent outbreak of COVID-19 has further impacted services at University Hospital Limerick. “COVID has had a huge impact on our elective services, unfortunately we’ve had a major complex outbreak at the UHL site which has further curtailed services. It is going to be very difficult to get back to where we were pre-COVID”.

She detailed that a number of new posts would be coming on stream and that efforts were ongoing regarding previously cancelled elective surgeries.

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