Children and adults suffering from such distressing skin conditions as psoriasis, eczema, acne and scarring have been told they can’t even get placed on a waiting list – never mind secure an appointment – to see a consultant dermatologist at University Hospital Waterford (UHW).
In a letter seen by The Munster Express, GPs across the area have been advised that the unit is “temporarily unable to accept routine referrals” because of the lack of consultants in Waterford.
Only urgent cases of suspected skin cancer and followup cases of confirmed melanoma will be referred to Cork’s South Infirmary, or the nearest dermatology unit, for review and treatment for the foreseeable future, GPs have been told.
Complex dermatological cases, such as those receiving biological agents for psoriasis, will be followed up at a designated clinic.
“We regret that in the current circumstances we are temporarily unable to accept routine referrals”, the letter read. “UHW is actively seeking to recruit temporary Consultant Dermatologists.”
Independent TD for Waterford Deputy John Halligan, who showed the letter to The Munster Express, said the department is at crisis point and it was only a matter of time before a cases of skin cancer went undiagnosed, with ‘devastating consequences’, because of the huge backlog,.
To date, dermatology services in Waterford were provided by two permanent consultants. Last month, however, both of these posts became vacant, one due to retirement and the other to maternity leave.
The HSE has confirmed that both of these posts, along with a third permanent consultant dermatology post, have been advertised.
Earlier this year, it was reported that waiting lists at the Waterford dermatology unit were spiraling out of control, with more than 3,200 clinic letters which had been dictated by consultants to be sent to GPs to update them on their patient’s condition going untyped, because of insufficient administrative staff.
One consultant described the situation as “untenable” and a “critical incident waiting to happen”.
The HSE has denied that this could delay treatment for urgent cases, such as patients with skin cancer.
Under the HSE National Service Plan 2014, no patient should wait longer than 52 weeks for an outpatient appointment this year.