Treatment outsourced to help 1,500 public patients
About 1,500 patients on public waiting lists will have their in-patient and daycase treatment outsourced to private hospitals in a bid to reduce delays, Health Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed yesterday.
He said the HSE had tendered for the work and it should be completed by the end of June. The promise is that nobody will be waiting longer than 18 months for an operation of an outpatient appointment by that date.
"In February, shortly after the 18-month maximum waiting time was announced, the number of in-patient and day case patients requiring treatment by end June 2015 to achieve that target was 4,995.
"As of last Friday, May 22, this number had reduced to 2,693. The HSE, in conjunction with hospital groups, is focused on delivering treatment targets through maximising the use of existing capacity within and across hospital groups in the first instance."
He said there are problems meeting the targets because of a lack of theatre nursing staff and consultants in particular specialties.
"Consequently, it has been determined that up to 1,500 inpatient and day care procedures may need to be outsourced.
"The HSE has advised that the number of in-patient and daycase patients waiting over 18 months will have been reduced by 98pc between the announcement of the maximum permissible waiting time in January and the end of June. "
Referring to outpatient appointments, he said "the number at risk of breaching the 18-month maximum waiting time by the end of June 2015 had falled by 7,773 within the past seven weeks".
Asked by Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin whether consultants were being paid on the double, he said:" I accept that there is certainly potential for conflicts of interest.
"There is also potential for moral hazard because, when one pursues waiting list initiatives such as this, one sometimes ends up rewarding those who are not performing and those who are not keeping their waiting lists down and there are, of course, other risks.
"However, in this case, we really had to put patient safety and patient outcomes first, ahead of all those legitimate concerns about initiatives such as this. Having people waiting so long for outpatient appointments and treatment is a huge risk. Frankly, I do not think waiting periods of 15 months and 18 months are particularly ambitious targets."