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Delays in establishing ‘dedicated’ space for transgender service

St Columcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown continues to operate its adult transgender clinic in the outpatient department, as plans for a dedicated clinical area remain a “work in progress”, a HSE spokesperson has told the Medical Independent (MI).

The Ireland East Hospital Group (IEHG) Operational Plan 2019 stated that the provision of an appropriate  space for the transgender service “remains a concern”.

The document also referred to continuing work to progress the model of care for the service. “Recruitment of staff is ongoing, and all posts will be filled during the year.” Investments have “facilitated significant changes to the service operation, with more improvements expected over the next 12 months”, the HSE’s spokesperson told MI. These improvements relate to waiting lists and the range of services provided.

As of July 2019, the waiting time to be seen as a gender services patient is 13 months from receipt of referral to first appointment. Some patients have been waiting longer due to “a number of factors, including capacity constraints”, according to the HSE.

The spokesperson also referred to a recent significant and unanticipated increase in referrals for gender services. It is hoped that every patient on the “legacy list” will be seen by the third quarter of next year. The aim is to have substantially reduced waiting times by the fourth quarter of 2020, through increasing staff and appointment capacities, and streamlining the process to optimise efficiency.

The hospital recently expanded its adult gender services by adding five additional members of staff, according to the HSE.

A consultant endocrinologist, social worker, speech and language therapist, senior psychologist and part-time assistant staff officer have recently commenced work in the hospital. The consultant endocrinologist began in May and this has enabled an increase in the numbers of weekly clinics.

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