The extent of Northern Ireland's waiting list shame can be revealed on Wednesday with a growing number of patients facing harrowing waits of up to six years for a first hospital appointment.
In some cases, people with painful and debilitating conditions who have been referred for an urgent outpatient appointment are enduring waits of almost five years before they first see a hospital consultant.
Official figures have also confirmed fears that the pandemic has caused waiting times to rocket, with wait times in some specialties double what they were before Covid-19 arrived in Northern Ireland.
Shocking figures released by the health trusts have also highlighted the postcode lottery when it comes to care - with waiting times varying by more than two years depending on where a patient lives.
It comes as the Department of Health releases its quarterly waiting time statistics on Thursday, which are expected to show another dismal decline in performance here as the health service buckles under the pressure of Covid-19 and decades of chronic underfunding.
According to official figures released at the end of last year, 327,189 people were on the waiting list for a first outpatient appointment on September 30, 2020.
Almost half of them - 155,497 - had been waiting longer than a year.
The quarterly waiting time figures released by the Department of Health only state the number of people who are waiting longer than a year for a first outpatient appointment.
They do not reveal the full waiting times for routine and urgent appointments. However, figures released to the Belfast Telegraph lay bare in devastating detail the scale of the crisis facing Health Minister Robin Swann as he prepares to rebuild the health service in the wake of the pandemic.
A Belfast Trust patient living with a crippling condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, who is potentially unable to work, drive, or care for their children, will wait 233 weeks for an urgent first outpatient appointment. Patients referred for a routine first outpatient appointment in rheumatology in the Belfast Trust can expect to wait 307 weeks.
In the Northern Trust, a person referred for an urgent cardiology appointment will wait 53 weeks. The types of conditions a person who requires an urgent cardiology appointment faces include atrial fibrillation, which can lead to stroke, and angina. The wait time for an urgent cardiology appointment in the Southern Trust is 77 weeks, rising to 122 weeks for a routine appointment.
In the South Eastern Trust, a patient who is referred for an urgent oral surgery appointment due to a potentially life-threatening infection or agonising facial pain will wait 185 weeks.
Meanwhile, in the Western Trust, the wait time for an urgent orthopaedic appointment is 266 weeks, while an elderly person referred for an urgent appointment in geriatric medicine can expect to wait 48 weeks.
The figures have also highlighted the ongoing misery for patients with the likes of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and motor neurone disease amid the neurology scandal. Wait times in all trusts for referrals to neurology remain exceptionally high - across all the trusts, the wait time for an urgent neurology appointment ranges from 161 weeks to 233 weeks depending on where the patient lives.
Meanwhile, the waiting time for a routine neurology appointment is spiralling out of control, with the shortest wait standing at 193 weeks and increasing to 302 weeks, according to the trust.
The reality facing patients is even more dire because the figures only refer to the wait time for a first outpatient appointment.
Patients referred to a hospital consultant regularly require diagnostic tests or procedures before they are then placed on a further waiting list for inpatient treatment.
This means some patients can wait up to a decade for an operation from the point they were first referred for a hospital appointment by their GP.
Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw, a member of the Stormont health committee, said: "The figures are truly horrifying and yet it is important that they are released to the public so that they can get a grip of the extent to which people are waiting for appointments, diagnosis, assessment and, in turn, appropriate treatment and care.
"There can be no doubt now that the Health Minister, along with his recently formed Management Board, have to ensure that the rebuild programme for the health and social care sector, as we emerge from this pandemic, is radically transformed to quickly address these waiting lists. As the chair of the All Party Group on Cancer, at Stormont, I am acutely aware of how important this process is to thousands of individuals and their loved ones in every single section of our society."
A spokeswoman from the Department of Health described the current situation as "extremely challenging" and said clinicians, trusts and the Health and Social Care Board work together to prioritise patients and ensure that all available capacity is used as effectively as possible.