Minister fails to meet nine-month waiting list target
MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly has failed to hit a self-imposed target of having no patient wait longer than nine months for inpatient and day-case surgery by the end of September.
However, the nine-month waiting list has fallen sharply, from 5,119 at the start of the year to 415 at the end of September. Some 170 of these were waiting more than a year.
Dr Reilly acknowledged yesterday that 12 hospitals, despite making significant inroads into their backlog, had missed the target and were left with work to do.
However, none of the hospitals is at risk of being fined as their performance is being dealt with in a “collegiate” manner, according to officials in the special delivery unit, which is charged with reducing waiting times in the health service.
A €1 million fine that was imposed but suspended on the Galway hospital group over long waiting lists has been dropped after the group virtually eliminated their waiting lists.
A separate target announced by the Minister to treat all children within nine months has also been missed.
Officials have struggled to deal with massive numbers on the outpatient waiting list, which now stands at 365,000.
The special delivery unit has spent €23 million this year to support specific hospitals with problem waiting lists, but says this is one-third of the spending allocated for this purpose in previous years.
Dr Reilly said the latest statistics showed hospitals were giving priority to patients waiting the longest once the most urgent cases had been dealt with. “It shows that even with reduced budgets and staffing levels, clear, well-informed targets assist hospitals to be effective.”
Further progress has been made in reducing the number of people waiting on trolleys. In the first nine months of the year, this number fell by 23.6 per cent or by 16,659 persons over the same period in 2011.
Big improvements have been recorded at Beaumont and Tallaght hospitals in Dublin as well as Cork University Hospital, but numbers remain stubbornly high in the Mater in Dublin and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.
Continuing problems in a handful of hospitals are being attributed to a failure to tackle existing behaviours, problems in specific specialties and underlying capacity problems.
Trolley numbers have started to rise in recent weeks but officials in the special delivery unit say the rise is smaller and later than last winter.
Improvements in stroke programmes have resulted in a reduction of 40 deaths between 2009 and 2011 and have prevented 150 patients suffering disability. This has produced savings of €5 million in long-term nursing home costs.
This has been achieved through better detection of the causes of stroke, which include bleeding or clots. Wrongly administering a thinning agent to a patient whose clot is caused by a bleed can kill the person. The number of stroke deaths fell below 1,000 last year for the first time in a decade.