Fianna Fáil and IMO say hospital waiting lists are shocking
Minister for Health ‘presiding over the complete disintegration of the system’
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said Minister for Health Leo Varadkar was prioritising his personal PR strategy by pushing out target times for waiting lists and presenting it as a breakthrough.
Fianna Fáil said the figures showed Minister for Health Leo Varadkar was “presiding over the complete disintegration of the hospital waiting list system”.
But IMO president Prof Trevor Duffy said that while the numbers were of concern, at least it meant the scale of the challenge was now apparent.
“If it stops there, we’ll honestly know where we stand. We can then work out a plan to tackle the problem.”
Prof Duffy contrasted the latest surge in waiting lists to the situation in late 2013, when “money was used to manipulate the figures” through the provision of short-term extra funding.
He said much of this money was used to buy appointments for patients “God-knows where” and ended up being of no benefit to the patients. Many public patients, for example, who were given private appointments ended up in the public system, where they had to rejoin a waiting list.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said the figures highlighted the strain the health service was under.
“Massive budget overruns, combined with the health minister’s failure to anticipate the need for increased capacity over the winter period has compounded an already dire situation, forcing hospitals to cancel procedures and resulting in waiting lists which are now completely out of control.
“Instead of trying to fix the problem, Minister Varadkar continues to prioritise his personal PR strategy, pushing out target times for waiting lists and presenting it as a major breakthrough.”
Mr Varadkar said the overall waiting list included people who had been on the list for just a few weeks. But what was of real concern was the number of people waiting for routine appointments for more than a year.
He said he had mandated the HSE to ensure that by June no patient was waiting for an appointment for more than 18 months and that by the end of the year, no patient was waiting for more than 15 months.
It could be difficult to separate urgent appointments from routine ones, he warned.
Some of the increase arises from the diversion of hospital resources to emergency departments to tackle the trolley crisis in the first months of the year. This forced the cancellation of thousands of non-urgent appointments.
Of the 405,000 on the waiting list, 184,000 have been waiting for more than six months, according to the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It doesn’t publish figures for the number of patients waiting for more than 15 months, or 18 months.
The longest lists are in orthopaedics, ENT (ear, nose and throat), general surgery and dermatology.