Waiting list crisis: ‘The system is failing as we watch it,’ consultants say

The latest figures show almost 580,000 people are waiting for treatment in hospitals

The number of people on public hospital waiting lists increased by 9,000 in July. File Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The number of people on public hospital waiting lists increased by 9,000 in July. File Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Drastic action needs to be taken by the Government to stop increasing waiting lists, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association has said.

The number of people on public hospital waiting lists increased by 9,000 in July, with more than 579,891 people awaiting treatment at the end of the month.

Dr Tom Ryan, president of the IHCA, said it was clear the problem would not be going away.

“The population has gone up 12.5 per cent in the past 10 years while the HSE has taken 14 per cent of beds out of the acute system,” he said.

“It is a case of capacity and staffing levels ... The system is failing as we watch it.”

Dr Ryan told Newstalk Breakfast that in Ireland hospitals are fully occupied all the time while in most OECD countries the rate is 80 per cent to 85 per cent.

“Health care resources need to be redirected to the front line,” he said.

He said the number of elective procedures had also dropped 54 per cent - from 180,000 to 80,000.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said he was “disappointed” by the number of patients who are waiting for treatment in public hospitals.

Figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) published last Friday showed there were 493,780 people waiting for outpatient appointments last month compared to 484,346 in June.

There were 86,111 waiting for inpatient surgery or day-case procedures in July compared to 86,018 in June.

The Government pledged to spend €50 million this year on initiatives to cut waiting lists, but the latest figures show this has yet to have a significant impact, with steady increases since the start of the year.

Defending the figures, a spokeswoman for the Minister for Health said Mr Harris has repeatedly emphasised that increasing both physical capacity and staffing capacity are priorities.