ALMOST 700 Irish children have been on hospital surgery waiting lists for over two years, figures shows.
The Covid-19 pandemic has completely re-shaped the country's healthcare system, with patients sick from the virus more-or-less prioritised over other patients.
This, along with the HSE cyber attack earlier this year, has led to a monumental backlog of patients looking to receive surgery and other treatment.
Figures, published in The Irish Times, show that 36 children have been on surgery waiting lists of more than four years, 109 have been waiting more than three years, 645 have been waiting more than two years, and over 4,000 kids have been waiting over six months.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly stressed that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted in the last 19 months "as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic" and "more recently as a result of the ransomware attack".
He said that efforts had been made over the past year to reduce the waiting times, but the surge of Covid-19 cases last Spring significantly curtailed progress.
Eilish Hardiman, chief executive of Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), which governs the children’s hospitals in Dublin, said it had been "a very challenging fortnight".
"We have more attending and they are staying in longer, which has meant hospital beds are at full capacity, which means we have children waiting in trolleys in emergency departments," she said on Sunday.
Ireland's health service is often pushed to in its limits in the best of times, but since the Covid-19 pandemic, there are concerns that the patient backlog may take years to reduce.