Minister told private hospitals can do ‘much, much more’ on waiting lists

Change of approach required if universal healthcare to be delivered, says Donnelly

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD said he believes universal healthcare is ‘the most important project of our times’. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD said he believes universal healthcare is ‘the most important project of our times’. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

 

The group representing private hospitals has said “much, much more can be done” to draw on their capacity to help tackle rising patient waiting lists.

The chairman of the Private Hospital Association Bill Maher made the remarks at the organisation’s national conference where he made the pitch to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly for the public and private sectors to work together on the issue.

Mr Donnelly told the conference that tackling waiting lists is a “top priority” for him and that given the current situation “we should be using all available capacity that the private sector can provide”.

Mr Maher identified the growing waiting lists as “perhaps the most significant impact of the pandemic” and an issue that was exacerbated by the cyberattack on the health service earlier this year.

He said: “There are now over 900,000 patients on waiting lists. This is now of profound concern, and unless addressed will have significant impact on health outcomes.

“Minister, it is vital that the public and private sectors work together to form a long term partnership to tackle waiting lists.

“The PHA today is calling for a major effort to be initiated to address this problem. Much, much more can be done to draw on the capacity of our member hospitals nationwide than is currently the case.”

Mr Donnelly acknowledged the “important contribution” of private hospitals and their staff during the pandemic.

On waiting lists he said he wants to bring lessons learned from the success of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout to the efforts to speed up treatments for patients.

“We need to bring the same discipline to public waiting lists,” he said.

‘Too long’

“They were too long before Covid arrived, and because of Covid, because of the cyberattack they’re a lot longer now, and we’re only going to sort them out if we change our approach.”

He outlined the most recently published National Treatment Purchase Fund figures on waiting lists from October.

They show 75,000 patients waiting for inpatient or day case procedures, around 645,000 waiting for an outpatient appointment; and 31,000 waiting for a GI scope.

“To this can be added a large number of adults and children waiting for other diagnostics and other social care,” he said.

Mr Donnelly outlined pre-pandemic progress made at reducing waiting lists through the use of the NTPF.

He said that €350 million in funding has been set aside for efforts to reduce waiting lists including €150 million for the NTPF and there is work being carried out on a multi-annual waiting list plan.

“The increase in the NTPF’s budget is a reflection of the importance I attach to it and by extension to yourselves in tackling this issue,” he told the private hospital representatives.

Mr Donnelly said: “I want to see further engagement between the public and private sectors as we respond to providing care and treatment to those who have been waiting for too long.”

He said he is aware that improvements can be made in how this work is planned and funded and that “given the current public waiting lists, we should be using all available capacity that the private sector can provide”.

Mr Donnelly finished his speech saying “I believe that universal healthcare is the most important project of our times”.

“I believe that every man and woman, every girl and boy, should be able to access the best quality healthcare when they need it.

“Everyone I’ve discussed this with in private practice believes it too. Together, I believe we can make, and must, make this a reality in our country.”