Sunday 20 January 2019

Spin and complacency are the last things we need as waiting lists grow

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's recent comment that a figure of 6,300 children on the waiting list to see a psychologist amounted to a move in "the right direction" shows a worrying level of complacency.

The numbers, which are another symptom of the waiting list crisis, had slightly fallen.

The reality is that waiting lists in hospitals and the community appear to be out of control since the Government was formed in May 2016.

Fianna Fáil has pointed out 35,353 people were waiting longer than six months for either an inpatient or day-case procedure at the end last month.

Two years ago in 2016, before we went to the polls for the last general election, that figure stood at 27,342 - amounting to a 29pc increase.

The underlying trend in recent months is concerning a rise in patients waiting longest.

This is despite the tens of millions of euros in top-up funding allocated to purchase more treatments last year.

When Mr Varadkar was Minister for Health in 2015 he predicted that long-term waiting lists would be "eliminated".

The delays are causing untold misery and risk to patients across the country.

It is a damning picture that no amount of spin can disguise.

The Taoiseach's office yesterday declined to clarify or elaborate on how he could appear to underestimate the extent of what is now a national emergency.

The ongoing trolley gridlock, which is set to continue for weeks yet, will undermine more efforts to carry out enough planned surgery.

This week a major hospital had to cancel a clinic where patients were due to receive injections for pain. This was because the day ward where they would be treated had to be given over to patients who had come through A&E.

Those patients will endure having to go back into the queue again.

Some €55m extra funding to outsource patients is due to be spent this year but it will clearly not be enough. To be on a public waiting list in February 2018 is a dismal start to the year.

Irish Independent

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