Tuesday 20 February 2018

Varadkar under fire as hospital waiting lists surge by 1,000pc

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar is the favourite to replace Enda Kenny as FG leader
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar is the favourite to replace Enda Kenny as FG leader
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

HOSPITAL waiting lists soared by as much as 1,000pc in six months, leaving the Government pledge to tackle the problem in tatters.

And they will get worse again before the end of the year, according to the latest grim forecast from the Health Service Executive.

The HSE's new peformance report shows a worsening trend with a massive 7,727 public patients waiting eight months or more to be admitted for an operation and 1,505 children enduring delays of more than 20 weeks.

And there were 5,488 people waiting more than nine months for inpatient or day cases in July, an increase on the 510 who were waiting in January.

This is a rise of nearly 5,000 patients - or close to an 1,000pc increase in just six months.

The report - which comes before the looming winter pressures on hospitals - also reveals that as many as 37,876 are in a queue for more than a year to see a specialist at an outpatient clinic.

It comes against a background of another deterioration in HSE finances with a prediction that it needs a bailout of €510m at the end of this year.

Hospitals had over-spent by a €160.4m deficit in July.

Fianna Fáil Health spokesman Billy Kelleher said Minister Leo Varadkar needed to urgently tackle hospital waiting lists as the scale of the crisis across the country begins to emerge.

He said the figures revealed the "extent to which the Government has been misleading people about what is happening within our health services".

He said there had been Government spin on waiting lists - but the latest figures showed another reality.

"Despite numerous promises and assurances that waiting lists are decreasing, the latest statistics expose the fact that waiting times are actually rising dramatically," he added.

Hospitals with the biggest waiting lists of patients needing admission for surgery include Galway University Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, St James's Hospital, the Mater Hospital, Cappagh Orthopaedic Hospital and Waterford Regional Hospital.

The report warned that emergency departments are having to cope with a surge in patients - while at the same time the numbers of patients occupying beds who should be discharged, but have nowhere to go such as a nursing home, have gone up to 664.

"The level of additional funding needed to enable the discharge of these patients is not currently available," says the report.

"This has resulted in increased waiting lists as the required acute capacity is not available to deal with the number requiring procedures.

"Beds have also had to be closed as a means of "cost containment".

The report also revealed:

Absenteeism rates are at 3.98pc in the health service

Payouts to agency workers up to July topped €194.3m - compared to €131.1m for the same period in 2013. This is mostly due to the problem recruiting doctors.

The latest report comes as a health managers' conference in Dublin was told yesterday that hospital managers have expressed frustration with dealing with the bureaucracy of the HSE.

Irish Independent

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