Hospital queues jump by 6,000 in eight weeks
Health Minister James Reilly pictured at a press conference at the Health Service Executive corporate employee relations services office in Dublin yesterday. Colin Keegan/Collins
Embattled Health Minister says figures are 'disconcerting'
HEALTH Minister James Reilly was delivered another blow yesterday after new figures showed the number of people on hospital waiting lists has soared by nearly 6,000 to 26,028.
The surge in hospital treatment queues for adults and children happened over just eight weeks, the figures for February from the Health Service Executive (HSE) revealed.
The Minister, who was challenged on the figures, described them as "disconcerting and worrying", but blamed them mostly on legacy issues, as they jumped rapidly in December.
However, when quizzed on whether children's hospitals improved their usage of operating theatres, he could not give up-to-date figures and said Temple Street was at 90pc last year. Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children was using 75pc (10pc lower than the standard target), while theatre activity at Tallaght hospital was 83pc.
"To have a situation where a surgeon can come in of a morning with an expectation of doing eight cases but only do three because management have not ensured that sufficient theatre anaesthetists are present is appalling and is very poor management."
Asked why the numbers waiting in Crumlin have doubled over the past year he said the waiting lists for the more serious conditions have improved.
"I want to see these tackled in a meaningful way, but I am not going to do what was done in the past, shove a whole lot of resources at the problem without addressing underlying problems -- like management."
The minister repeated his promise to set up a special delivery unit shortly to tackle waiting lists. He would appoint people to the unit who are "held in world-ranked regard".
"I believe there are huge areas for improvement for using hospitals in a far more efficient fashion. Why are we sending people with ordinary conditions, with hernia and varicose veins, to major tertiary hospitals when they could be looked after in the local county hospital?"
He admitted that waiting lists rose in Northern Ireland after a special delivery unit was set up, but he insisted his approach also would involve tackling the underlying problems.
The minister was speaking yesterday at the annual meeting of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) in Killarney.
He had earlier opened a new primary care centre in Mallow, Co Cork, where he said just over one in three Irish patients are admitted to hospital on the day of surgery -- only half the rate of top international hospitals.
"This causes huge losses of hours and days -- and across the system it costs thousands of days and thousands of operations," he added.
Questioned about the proposal to introduce compulsory health insurance from 2016, in light of flaws highlighted in Holland, he said it is not possible to copy the model there.
"We can take what we like from it -- that is the competing insurance model . . . we will have more insurers. Before the election we had talks with a major insurer and since the election we have had approaches from another insurer. What they always want is certainty and they want to know if risk equalisation will be in place. That is a key priority for us."
Addressing the conference IMO chief executive George McNeice, warned that as many as 400 vacancies for junior doctors will not be able to be filled from June.
He said that a doctor who leaves medical school this year will just have an 18pc chance of getting a consultant post in Ireland. Junior doctors are going abroad to gain experience, but many are now choosing to stay in their new country.