Health service management has ‘room for improvement’ - Harris

Minister for Health says HSE will submit action plan on waiting lists by March

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said there is "room for improvement" when it comes to how the State's health service is managed.

Opening a Dáil debate on hospital waiting lists on Thursday, the Minister said there were some really excellent managers in the health service.

“But there is definitely room to do more, and I reject any assertion that we are already doing all we can and that there is not room for improvement in terms of how the health service is managed,” he said.

The debate follows an RTÉ documentary which this week raised concerns about transparency when it came to the official numbers of people awaiting treatment in hospitals.


The response to the programme has created serious friction between Mr Harris and the Health Service Executive (HSE). Health service managers were said to be "fuming" over the Minister's response to the issue, in particular his attribution of primary responsibility to the HSE.

One source said officials who took part in the subsequent televised debate on the programme felt they had been “thrown under the bus” by the Minister.

On Wednesday, figures published by the National Purchase Treatment Fund (NTPF) highlighted that hospital waiting lists rose sharply last month to a record 545,000 patients as the trolley crisis forced the cancellation of thousands of scheduled appointments.

Mr Harris told the Dáil on Thursday that problems in the health services would not be solved by resources alone.

"If it was all about resources, we would not have had any problems in the health services during Celtic Tiger Ireland, " he said.

He said it was also about how money was spent and budgets were implemented and how hospitals were managed.

The Minister said the HSE will submit an action plan to improve waiting lists in the public acute hospital sector by the end of the month. He said the aim was no patient would wait more than 15 months by the end of October.

“I consider this is still far too long, but it would mark a significant and solid reduction in waiting time with the aim then of reducing the waiting list further,.”

He said he had requested the HSE produce an action plan for scoliosis.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times