Tuesday 18 December 2018

Three new hospitals planned in bid to slash public waiting lists

Paschal Donohoe is to reveal big spending plans
Paschal Donohoe is to reveal big spending plans

Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan

Three new hospitals designed to deal exclusively with the surgery waiting lists are included in the National Development Plan, the Irish Independent can reveal.

A multi-billion euro package aimed at improving the health service will also see 2,600 extra hospital beds by 2027 and hundreds of community nursing home beds. The Department of Health will get a substantial share of the €115bn give-away.

Targets set in the recently-published Bed Capacity Review will be moved forward by four years to 2027.

The new hospitals catering solely for patients on public waiting lists for surgeries such as hip replacements or cataracts are likely to be based in Dublin, Galway and Cork.

The idea was broached by Health Minister Simon Harris last September and is based on a similar system in Glasgow.

Figures released yesterday by the National Treatment Purchase Fund put the total number of people on waiting lists in January at almost 694,000.

Ninety state nursing homes are also to receive money for refurbishment and there is "a significant" figure for investment in primary care services.

Well-placed sources say the plan will also place a massive emphasis on investment in IT, with the HSE and An Garda Síochána to be given modernised computer systems.

At least 23 counties are in line for new schools, although many were announced by the Department of Education as far back as 2014.

Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring is to have €1bn for rural improvement schemes over the next decade.

The Irish Independent understands Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will also announce:

12,000 new social houses annually from 2021;

A new control centre for Dublin Airport;

A series of national road upgrades;

The Metro North;

The DART expansion.

In housing, it aims to pick up where the existing Rebuilding Ireland plan leaves off in 2021.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has said that his ambition is to put a plan in place to succeed the current strategy and maintain it targets.

It is understood this amounts to in the region of 12,000 new social houses each year.

Meanwhile, gardaí are to replace the existing Pulse system, which Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn yesterday described as "not fit for purpose".

He said the 20-year-old IT network is "at the root" of issues including the reclassification of homicide figures because it was not designed for modern demands.

"Technology has moved on massively in 20 years," he told an Oireachtas Committee.

Waterford is expected to be awarded funding for the redevelopment of the city's North Quays following representations from Independent Alliance Minister John Halligan.

Sources admitted there is a "level of nervousness" in Government ahead of the launch after Opposition parties united to attack both the development plan and National Planning Framework.

Collectively the plans are to be known as 'Project Ireland 2040'.

The housing minister yesterday held a private briefing for some TDs, amid accusations of "skulduggery" and "strokes".

At that meeting it was alleged the Government was being disingenuous by not allowing a Dáil vote on the final plan.

Legislation currently moving through the Oireachtas sets out that "draft" frameworks should be approved by the Dáil - but Mr Murphy insists there has already been widespread consultation with elected representations.

Labour's Alan Kelly also raised concerns that a fresh Environment Impact Assessment should be completed, given that the plan underwent rewriting in recent weeks.

This was disputed by the minister, who said all the legal requirements have been fulfilled.

Mr Kelly told the Irish Independent he initiated the process while in government, and the intention was that it would be voted on by the Dáil.

Irish Independent

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