FF promise of permanent end to hospital waiting lists not included


Fianna Fáil's pre-election promise to end hospital waiting lists permanently within two years has not been explicitly included in the programme for government.

However, the programme pledged that no patient will have to wait longer than three months for treatment once referred to a hospital consultant.

The programme promised "a world-class public health service" through investment and reform, and has given a commitment to "encourage the end of the two-tier health system" by ensuring that public patients will have access to "timely and quality" services.

The programme pledged to reform the system of planning and funding hospitals to ensure "that the needs of people in all parts of the country are addressed and that public funding is producing the highest possible level and quality of care". Measures have been promised to improve accident and emergency services by reducing waiting times in casualty departments and having senior doctors available at all times.

Many elements of what the Government plans to do were contained in the National Health Strategy published in November, including a commitment to provide 3,000 extra hospital beds for public patients over the next 10 years and establishing a treatment fund to purchase treatment for public patients from private hospitals in Ireland and abroad where it is not possible to treat them "within a reasonable period".

The document stresses that people in all parts of the State would be given "reasonable access" to cancer services.In addition, the document promised to:

Improve hospital staffing levels - both nurses and doctors.

Develop acute hospital services on a balanced regional basis.

Significantly improve the level of orthodontic care for public patients.

Extend 24-hour GP cover throughout the State.

Extend medical card eligibility.

Develop community nursing units for the elderly.

Encourage the entry of additional insurers into the private health insurance market.

An expansion of care places for people with disabilities to end the inappropriate use of psychiatric hospitals for persons with intellectual disabilities has been promised.

The assistant secretary general of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, Mr Donal Duffy, welcomed the commitment to a world-class health service but wondered how it would be funded.

Mr Liam Doran of the Irish Nurses Organisation said he was disappointed the document did not state in more specific terms how the Government intended to attract and retain Irish-trained nurses.