‘Cal­lous in­er­tia’ in health re­form progress

Irish Examiner - - News - Cather­ine Shana­han and Juno McEn­roe

The Gov­ern­ment has been ac­cused of “cal­lous in­er­tia” for the slow rate of progress in im­ple­ment­ing its health re­form pro­gramme, Sláin­te­care, as 707,000 pa­tients re­main on hos­pi­tal wait­ing lists.

De­spite Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris ac­knowl­edg­ing that a well-re­sourced Sláin­te­care pro­gramme of­fice, with an ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, is a key step to­wards suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of re­form, no­body has yet been hired to fill the top job.

Sláin­te­care was pub­lished more than a year ago and the re­cruit­ment process for a Sláin­te­care chief started six months ago.

A spokesper­son for the Depart­ment of Health yes­ter­day said an ap­point­ment has “not yet been fi­nalised for this post” and “it is ex­pected that the process will be com­pleted shortly”.

So­cial Democrats TD Róisín Shor­tall, who chaired the com­mit­tee that de­vised the Sláin­te­care plan, said Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar and Mr Har­ris were “pre­sid­ing over a health sys­tem in tat­ters, with un­prece­dented wait­ing lists for med­i­cal treat­ment”.

The fig­ures, from the Na­tional Treat­ment Pur­chase Fund, have reached their high­est level ever, with 511,904 pa­tients wait­ing for their first ap­point­ment at an out­pa­tient clinic. Of these, al­most 80,000 are wait­ing more than a year-and-a-half. More than 44,000 out­pa­tients are chil­dren.

An­other 78,000 peo­ple are on in­pa­tient lists, await­ing surgery.

The hos­pi­tal group with the high­est out­pa­tient wait­ing list, of 108,132, is the south/south-west, com­prised of hos­pi­tals in Cork, Kerry, Water­ford, and south Tip­per­ary.

The or­thopaedic out­pa­tient list at South In­fir­mary Vic­to­ria Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal is at al­most 6,000, the third-high­est or­thopaedic list in the coun­try. Cork Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal has the third-high­est oph­thal­mol­ogy list, at 6,874.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Do­herty said Mr Varad­kar had promised, when tak­ing over as Taoiseach, that he would take a spe­cial in­ter­est in health.

“We now see that spe­cial in­ter­est has amounted to over­see­ing an in­crease in hos­pi­tal wait­ing lists to record highs,” he said.

Education Min­is­ter Richard Bru­ton said the lengths of time peo­ple are wait­ing on lists over­all is fall­ing.

“Of course, any sys­tem will have peo­ple who are join­ing the wait­ing list as it is not an im­me­di­ate ser­vice, but most of these pa­tients are there less than six months and 75% are treated within 12 months,” said Mr Bru­ton.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Don­nelly said: “Things have got­ten so bad that it’s be­gin­ning to make James Reilly’s ten­ure look like a golden age.”

In April this year, Mr Har­ris launched an ac­tion plan with the aim of re­duc­ing the num­ber of pa­tients wait­ing longer than nine months for in­pa­tient pro­ce­dures by the end of the year, from a peak of 86,100 in July 2017 to un­der 70,000.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.