HUNDREDS of patients waiting for ultrasound scans at Letterkenny General Hospital haven’t even had their letters of referral from their GPs opened because of a shortage of staff, donegaldaily.com can reveal.
The 550 patients are from all over County Donegal, with some of the referrals made as far back as last January.
Forms have been piling up in the radiology department, we have been told.
The HSE has promised to deal with the backlog of cases over the next six weeks – at a time when the hospital is facing massive cutbacks due to a multi-million euro overspend.
The HSE claims all the cases are classified as non-urgent.
One patient whose GP sent a referral for a scan EIGHT MONTHS AGO told us: “It is very worrying. I know it is a precautionary scan but there’s always a chance that something shows up, even cancer. It has left me worried for months on end.
“I know the staff are doing their best; this problem lies with the Health Minister and those at the top.”
The Radiology unit at the hospital has met with management to discuss clearing the backlog of cases.
That means all new cases are now being put on hold.
“It’s a shambles,” one GP told us, “you can talk all day about who’s to blame, but at the end of the day it’s cutbacks and it’s the patients who suffer deep stress who are the ones who suffer.”
One hospital insider said a new waiting list will be created whilst the old one is cleared.
“It’s a never-ending cycle,” said the source.
“We just don’t enough people, otherwise we wouldn’t be in this position. There has been an issue where maternity cover hasn’t been provided for staff who have been off work.”
A HSE spokesperson confirmed there are 550 patients awaiting action on ultrasound referrals.
“GPs in Donegal have been issued with a letter from the hospital advising on the plan to address the waiting list,” the HSE said in a statement yesterday.
“When the waiting list is cleared, it is planned to explore what measures can be put in place to minimise waiting times for this service by matching capacity with demand for scans.
“The action plan will consist of additional ultrasound sessions outside of usual clinics so that the waiting list will be clear within six weeks, and an imaging room has been freed up to allow this to happen.”
The promise comes as the HSE attempts to implement cuts across the health services.
The planned closure of the Gynae Ward at the hospital is being met with massive resistance from staff and patients.
And nationally the Government is planning to axe medical cards for thousands of patients as part of a deal with the Troika.