700 on waiting list being outsourced for procedure 'is a drop in the ocean'
Some 700 public patients in need of a diagnostic procedure will have the tests paid for privately - but there are still nearly 18,000 others in the queue for the test.
Health Minister Simon Harris said €700,000 will be spent on outsourcing the 700 patients who need an endoscopy - an invasive diagnostic procedure - to private hospitals.
"We have a rising demand for endoscopy procedures in this country and this important new National Treatment Purchase Fund initiative will increase the number of these procedures that can be carried out over the coming months," he said.
However, Fianna Fáil's Dublin West TD Jack Chambers, who has been tracking the use of the €20m additional funding for outsourcing of public waiting list patients, said last night the way it is being used is too ad-hoc.
The cash injection was announced in last October's Budget but it was well into this year before substantial funding was put to use and in the meantime waiting lists and times increased, he added.
"While I welcome the fact that 700 patients in need will now be treated, when you see there are 18,508 currently waiting for an endoscopy it is a drop in the ocean," he said.
There are 1,365 patients waiting a year or more for a procedure and 286 for more than 18 months.
The minister insisted there needed to be better validation of waiting lists to get a truer picture of the numbers who are still in need of a procedure.
He said that next year he hoped more patients in need of eye procedures will be seen by community opthalmologists rather than having to be treated in hospital.
There is also room for some patients on outpatient waiting lists to be seen privately, he added.
Their appointments would be paid for by the HSE.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Harris will today announce a range of investments from the new Healthy Ireland Fund to improve our lifestyle habits.
The first strand of funding of around €1.35m to be announced includes a range of projects to support plans to get children more active. It also aims to use the country's library network as health and well-being hubs in communities.