New hospital group clears waiting list of almost 14,000 inpatients in nine months

The hospital group responsible for running public hospitals in Galway and Roscommon has cleared a waiting list of almost 14,000 inpatients over a nine month period.

The Galway and Roscommon University Group, responsible for running UHG, Merlin Park, Portiuncula and Roscommon Hospitals, dealt with a total of 13,944 inpatients by the end of September.

Led by chief executive Bill Maher, who took up the job in early January, the group’s brief was to meet the Department of Health’s Special Delivery Unit (SDU ) targets for inpatient waiting lists.

These are that adults should not wait longer than nine months to be treated, children - 20 weeks and people requiring “scopes” should be “seen” within 13 weeks.

Mr Maher confirmed that the waiting list target had been met at a meeting with Tony O’Brien, the director general designate of the HSE in Galway recently.

Commending him for the achievement former mayor and chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum Cllr Padraig Conneely said this was a “major boost” for the former acting CEO of St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin.

He said Mr Maher assured him that a similar approach will now be taken to reduce outpatients waiting lists.

“Work will commence immediately to eliminate these over the next 12 months.”

Mr Maher outlined that when the group was formed in January it focussed on the operational challenges and set out a strategy to realise the full potential of the three hospitals (Galway University Hospitals [UHG and Merlin Park], Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe and Roscommon Hospital ) working together as a single unit.

“Our service priorities this year were to jointly improve patients’ access to the emergency departments and to meet the challenging Special Delivery Unit target for inpatient waiting lists.”

He stated he was “delighted” to confirm that it has met this. “The target set by the SDU required careful planning to achieve and was only made possible because of the integration of all the hospitals in the group. Our approach included introducing a range of measures such as 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.

“Staff in all of the hospitals in the group are to be commended for their dedication and commitment to ensuring that we were able to see so many patients in a relatively short length of time.”

He went on to say that the group will remain vigilant to ensure that it continues to meet these targets and that adult will wait not longer than nine months and children will be treated within 20 weeks.

“Our next step is to make comparable inroads with the outpatient waiting list and we are taking a similar approach to planning how to reduce the length of time people wait for their outpatient appointments.”

Tony O’Brien, the director general designate of the HSE met management and clinicians to review developments within the group.

“This is my first visit to the Galway and Roscommon University Hospital Group since taking up the post as director general designate of the HSE. I am delighted to be in Galway today and to meet with staff from all hospitals in the group and to hear details of the significant progress made since it was formed in January.

“At the end of last year Galway was the only hospital in the country with patients waiting longer than 12 months for inpatient treatment. Even though there were near to 14,000 patients who had to be seen by the end of September in order to make the target set by the SDU, this was achieved. This is a huge accomplishment and was due in part to the fact that the group operates as a single entity and all the resources of the hospitals were available to speed up waiting times for patients.

“In addition to the tremendous achievement of meeting the inpatient waiting list target there has been considerable progress made in the length of time patients wait in the emergency departments. The data presented to me today show that in Galway University Hospitals in August there were on average seven patients waiting to be admitted at 8am, which is a substantial improvement on the average of 24 waiting in February. This shows that the hospital is moving towards meeting the national target of 95 per cent of patients being seen and admitted within six hours and I look forward to following further progress towards the target.”

Significant progress had been made at Portiuncula Hospital too, he said. “The latest data shows that the hospital has made huge advances towards the national target and in August 87 pr cent of patients were seen and admitted within the target of six hours.

“The decision to establish hospital groups is part of the Government’s reform of the health system. The progress demonstrated by the Galway and Roscommon University Hospital Group illustrates that we can provide better healthcare by combining the strengths of hospitals of different sizes which means that duplication of services can be avoided and there is greater flexibility to provide the most appropriate services in the most appropriate locations.

“The achievements of the Galway and Roscommon Hospital Group over the last nine months have been the standout performance of any hospital group in the Irish health service.”

Mr Maher said while the group had achieved what it had set out to do in the first nine months it still has many challenges ahead.

“We will be outlining our priorities for 2013 and beyond at the end of this year. The data shows that we are treating more patients with a significantly reduced budget (down by 15 per cent in three years ) and with fewer staff (down by eight per cent since 2010 ). We can continue to make progress by maximising all the resources of the group and by removing duplication of services, if necessary. We will look to fully implement the Small Hospitals Framework and play to the strengths of each of the hospitals in the group within a single clinical governance structure which ensures a high quality and safe service.”

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