Emails show Varadkar's fury at HSE performance
Health Minister Leo Varadkar's frustrations with the HSE have been revealed in internal correspondence seen by the Irish Independent.
In the correspondence, Mr Varadkar puts pressure on HSE chief Tony O'Brien, asking why health staff were not working like a "laser beam" to reduce A&E overcrowding.
The minister expressed his frustration in an email in late September, warning that trolley waits in hospitals were "not improving". The situation seemed to deteriorate in the last two weeks, he said. "You'll recall that the commitment was to focus on this like a laser beam once everyone was back in September," he added.
The behind-the-scenes pressure emerged as new hospital waiting list figures for public patients needing an operation or appointment with a specialist showed a noticeable improvement for the first time in months. However, 1,533 people are still waiting over 18 months for an operation and 9,618 are facing the same delays to see a specialist.
Commenting on the figures the minister said it was" positive" to see 628 less people waiting over 18 months for an operation at the end of November compared to October.
The most substantial progress was made in the numbers of people waiting over 15 months, although it has been slower for the those who were waiting the longest.
Referring to people waiting for colonoscopies, including some who have potential symptoms of bowel cancer, he said anyone who needs to be seen urgently must have the procedure within 28 days and a policy of zero tolerance applies to breaches.
The Irish Cancer Society expressed concern last week that over 3,500 were waiting more than three months for the test.
Mr Varadkar said a new drive is currently under way to have anyone waiting over a year for a gastrointestinal endoscopy seen before the end of the year.
The minister admitted, however, that the new mandatory policy of implementing measures such as cancelling operations if the numbers on trolleys reach a certain level may impact on waiting lists.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Deputy Billy Kelleher said the target to have nobody waiting more than 18 months at the end of June was still not met.
"Yet again, this target has not been met in November. Remember these are diminished targets. Up to the end of last year, there was a 12-month target for outpatients and an eight-month target for inpatient and day cases," he added.
The Government cannot be trusted, he insisted.