Crumlin waiting lists criticised

 

The manner in which waiting lists are managed at the State's largest children's hospital were sharply criticised today by the chief executive of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF)

Pat O'Byrne told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee he was not happy with the level of engagement Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, has had with the NTPF.

"It's patchy to say the least," he said.

As a result some children are on public waiting lists for treatment at the hospital, he indicated, at a time when treatment could be arranged privately for them by the NTPF.

"We are not happy with the way they (Crumlin) are implementing waiting list management policies," Mr O'Byrne said.

He confirmed there were now 406 children waiting between three and six months for surgery at Crumlin, 498 waiting between six and 12 months and 71 children waiting more than a year.

Fine Gael TD Padraic McCormack put it to him that there were 840 children on the surgical waiting list at Crumlin last April and these latest figures indicated the numbers waiting had increased.

"It probably did," Mr O'Byrne responded. But he stressed where hospitals engaged with the NTPF waiting lists could be addressed.

He cited as an example Letterkenny General Hospital, where he said two years ago there were 1,200 patients waiting over 12 months for surgery. Today there are just 30 after the hospital worked with the fund.

Mr O'Byrne said that overall there were 230 children waiting more than 12 months for surgery and 188 of these were waiting to be seen at Crumlin and Temple Street hospitals.

Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said the admission by the NTPF that patients were being left on waiting lists in Crumlin and Temple Street when they could be dealt with by the NTPF was "an absolute scandal" and an indictment of hospital management.

The hospitals should be called before the committee, he said, to explain themselves.

"What we are dealing with here is professional negligence on behalf of hospital managers who are not dealing with the NTPF," he charged, adding that it was happening in the full knowledge of the HSE and Department of Health.

Michael Scanlan, secretary general of the Department of Health, who was also before the committee, said this was a difficult area and some of it revolved around clinical decision making. However this did not take away from the core point being made in relation to non co-operation by some hospitals with the NTPF.

Other hospitals cited by Mr O'Byrne for failing to engage fully with the NTPF were Tallaght and Tullamore hospitals.

A statement released on behalf of the hospital this afternoon rejected the claims and said it is “fully committed to working with the NTPF”.

It said the NTPF “placed a limit of 450 patient treatment slots for the hospital in 2009” and as a result those patients were treated under the scheme last year.

The statement added that the hospital is presently working with the HSE and NTPF to assist in reducing waiting lists for 2010.

This evening a statement released on behalf of the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, incorporating the National Children's Hospital, said it has an “excellent relationship” with the NTPF.

It said: “In 2009, the Hospital met its quota of referrals to the NTPF and in two quarters was stopped from referring any further patients as it would have resulted in the hospital exceeding its quota.”

“The hospital meets with the NTPF on a regular basis and works closely with them in relation to meeting NTPF quotas,” it added.