59,000 people will still be on waiting lists by late 2019
A massive 59,000 public patients will still languish on hospital waiting lists for surgery at the end of next year.
The target for the queue for surgery comes as the HSE's service plan is due to come before the Cabinet today.
But even with an injection of €75m for the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to pay for treatments for patients, the waiting lists will remain high.
There are currently up to 71,000 waiting for surgery, a drop from 80,000 in January. However, the slow rate of improvement means that around 17,500 patients are still facing a delay of over nine months for surgery.
The HSE is to rely heavily on outsourcing surgery to reduce waiting lists next year, despite getting a record €17bn in health funding for 2019.
The NTPF got €55m this year and will be funded up to €75m in 2019. It plans to buy 25,000 surgeries next year, as well as 5,000 slots for patients who need diagnostic scopes.
The HSE plans to remove 34,000 patients from the waiting list who are contacted and are deemed to no longer need treatment.
However, the "two strikes and you are out" system used to contact patients has been criticised by doctors, who support a clean-up of waiting lists, but say certain people are losing out, including the elderly, the homeless and people who cannot read.
Meanwhile, Tadhg Daly, of Nursing Homes Ireland, warned against increasing the waiting time under Fair Deal for a nursing home place.
It has been maintained at around four weeks, but he said: "If older people have to wait longer than four weeks to access a bed under the nursing home support scheme, it will exacerbate, not improve, delayed discharges and record overcrowding in our hospitals.
"This would be a classic case of history repeating itself. Four years ago, when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was minister for health, older people had to wait months to access a bed. However, instead of saving money, it cost millions because of delayed discharge."