Sunday 23 September 2018

Record 504,000 wait on outpatient lists as Varadkar tries to pass buck

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath

David Raleigh

One-in-10 people is waiting for a hospital appointment as outpatient lists have soared to a record high of 504,111.

Almost 80,000 people have been waiting to see a medical specialist for more than 18 months, according to startling new figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

There are more than 42,000 children among the overall waiting list, and Ireland's three children's hospitals have 9,246 waiting over a year-and-a-half.

Fianna Fáil described the figures as "simply scandalous" as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar moved to spread the blame for hospital overcrowding between government, trade unions, doctors and health managers.

He called on leadership from "senior doctors in particular" and "much better management" to tackle hospital waiting lists.

Health Minister Simon Harris, who took over the role from Mr Varadkar, is under fire at the spiralling numbers of people waiting for appointments.

Yesterday, the Irish Independent reported that there will still be a massive 70,000 people stuck on waiting lists at the end of this year despite a €50m cash injection to try to tackle the crisis.

Late yesterday it emerged that 504,111 patients left waiting for outpatient appointments as hospital waiting lists continue to soar.

The Taoiseach admitted the country's hospital trolley crisis was "bad", yet stopped short of agreeing with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) that the crisis was now "out of control".

Asked whether he agreed with the INMO, he responded: "I suppose that depends how you define the term 'out of control', but it certainly is bad."

The Taoiseach made the comments on a visit to Limerick yesterday.

University Hospital Limerick has consistently been one of the worst hospitals for patient overcrowding.

According to the INMO, there were 1,700 patients waiting on trolleys in hospitals around the country in the first three days of this week.

Successive health ministers, including Mr Varadkar, have tried but failed to solve the overcrowding issue.

The Taoiseach said there were "huge variations from hospital to hospital in terms of performance and overcrowding".

"What's required is four things: The right policies from Government; clinical leadership from senior doctors in particular; co-operation from the trade unions in making the necessary reforms that are needed in our health service; and, much better management," he added.

While acknowledging the problem was "very severe", Mr Varadkar added that "most of what happens in our health service is very good".

He added: "We do have two big problems. One problem is overcrowding in many of our hospitals, and also, there are too many people waiting too long to see specialists and to have procedures and treatments."

However, the new Fianna Fáil health spokesperson, Stephen Donnelly TD, said: "More than 10pc of the population are waiting for an outpatient consultation and a huge number of them are waiting a very long time for one.

"Ireland's three children's hospitals have 9,246 waiting over a year-and-a-half; figures that are simply scandalous."

He added: "The fact is that there has been a complete lack of urgency in tackling this problem."

Irish Independent

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