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The Clinical Director of the Maternity Directorate for the South/South West Hospital Group (SSWHG) has said the model it has employed in reducing and managing waiting lists is an example for other services.
Prof John Higgins told the Medical Independent (MI) that gynaecology waiting lists have reduced from just under 5,000 in April 2017, to approximately 1,000 as a result of interventions developed by the directorate.
There are now “practically zero” patients on waiting lists for over a year, whereas previously, this number was approximately 2,000.
“While outpatients waiting lists are going up, up, up nationally, ours are going down, down, down,” Prof Higgins told MI. “People are now waiting months for appointments, rather than years.”
The achievements in reducing the waiting lists would have been impossible without the support of the SSWHG, he added.
Prof Higgins is the only clinical director nationally to hold executive and budgetary authority in the HSE, with these responsibilities set out in writing.
Under the original plan for Hospital Groups, which Prof Higgins helped to develop, it was envisaged all clinical directors would have such authority.
Prof Higgins also pointed out that the directorate has a “no refusals” policy, meaning clinicians from other units do not have to justify their decisions to refer their patients to the service.
He noted assurances that where best practice is evident, clinical networks will not be dismantled under the proposed regional integrated care organisations.
Prof Higgins has formally requested a meeting with Executive Director for Sláintecare Ms Laura Magahy, at which he plans to brief her on the benefits of the model employed by the maternity services in the Group.
“We think that other services could learn from our experiences,” he said.
In 2017, the SSWHG Maternity Directorate was the first Group-wide directorate to be established in the SSWHG and indeed in the country.
Since then, progress has been made in establishing multiple linkages and a shared management and educational approach between the Group’s maternity units.