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Wednesday 24 May 2017

Wait times for A&E 'longest in Europe' as Ireland worst of 35 countries for ease of access to healthcare

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Ireland’s healthcare system last year ranked below that of lower-income countries Macedonia and Slovenia- despite getting a big increase in spending, according to an annual Europe-wide survey.

Ireland ranks 21st out of 35 countries and our hospital waiting lists continue to be  among the worst in Europe, according to the Euro Health Consumer Index.

The top countries based on a comparison of key areas are the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium,and Iceland.

A&E waiting times in Ireland are again the longest in Europe, followed by Poland, Greece and the UK, the report published today reveals.

The report expressed surprise at the low ambitions of the HSE and  referred to the “target of no more than 18 months’ (!) wait for a specialist appointment.”

It warned that  “even and if and when that target is reached, it will still be the worst waiting time situation in Europe”.

Hospital waiting lists climbed to record levels last year with over 530,000 waiting for care and they are set to increase again this month due to cancellations of surgery due to the trolley crisis.

The report casts doubt on the  validity of official statistics it received from the HSE and said “as a matter of principle” it uses patient organisation feedback to score Ireland on accessibility.

There is also a poor score when it comes to cost efficiency and  Ireland’s healthcare system  is the fifth worst country when it comes to “bang for buck”.

Only Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania emerge with worse rankings for value for money.

Ireland’s per capita spend on drugs is also still among the highest in Europe-  ranking in 8th place behind countries like  Switzerland, France and Sweden.

“The fact that Ireland has the highest  percentage of population purchasing duplicate healthcare insurance also presents a problem.

The report of the think-tank, based in France asked:”Should that be regarded as an extreme case of dissatisfaction with the public system, or simply as a technical solution for progressive taxation?”

When it comes to cancer survival rates the Europe-wide comparison, which refers to 2012, showed Ireland in 8th place.

Ireland is mid-way in the league table for infant mortality but is one of the countries which has seen a big reduction in rates of the superbug MRSA.

Referring to abortion the report said  “Ireland no longer has a total ban on abortion.”

“The requirement that a woman wishing an abortion becomes subject to judgement on if the pregnancy should be regarded as a serious health hazard, including suicide risk, is a very minor step indeed towards abortion as a women’s right, hence the purple score on this indicator.”

In a commentary the report said that European healthcare is steadily improving: infant mortality as well as survival rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer are all moving in the right direction.

“Patient choice and involvement are developing. But still too many countries stick to inefficient ways to fund and deliver care services.

“ Copying the most successful European healthcare systems would save money to be invested in saving lives and improving performance among the many countries struggling to meet citizens’ expectations.”

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