THE number of patients walking out of emergency departments without ever being formally discharged has reached record levels.
More than 13,500 people simply abandoned their visit to the accident and emergency ward during January of this year and December last.
It means that nearly one in sixteen patients who arrived seeking emergency medical care left instead, either frustrated by lengthy queues, going elsewhere for treatment, or returning home.
The figures for January 2018 and December 2017 include 859 children, whose parents thought they were sick enough to bring to hospital but later left without officially being told they were healthy enough to go.
In a statement, the HSE said there were a variety of reasons why patients might leave an emergency department, not only wait times.
However, the numbers have been climbing during precisely the same period as waiting lists in Irish hospitals reached their highest levels yet.
In January, 6,499 people were classified as “did not waits” compared to 4,777 people in the same month in 2017.
The figure was actually even worse in December when 7,055 people – or 6.3% of all patients presenting – went home without formal discharge from hospital.
There has been a steady rise in the percentage of patients not waiting for emergency treatment, from 4.8% in January 2017 to 6% and above in the two most recent months for which figures are available.