Thursday 14 December 2017

Varadkar: Don't ask me to help patients jump queues

Leo Varadkar told FG party colleagues ‘not to bother’ him
Leo Varadkar told FG party colleagues ‘not to bother’ him
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has warned Fine Gael TDs "not to bother" him with letters seeking to bump constituents up operation waiting lists.

Mr Varadkar said there could be no political interference with clinical decisions on the scheduling of operations.

He told party members not to ask him to do "anything unethical", as he would not be doing it.

The remarks were made at a parliamentary party meeting and came after a month where thousands of operations were postponed in a bid to alleviate the overcrowding crisis in accident and emergency departments.

It is understood a small number of TDs have been making representations on behalf of constituents hoping for an earlier operation date than they had been given.

However, they were told in no uncertain terms that such representations would fall on deaf ears.

At the meeting, Mr Varadkar said there could be life and death situations and if one person was to jump the queue, someone else could suffer.

He also told TDs it could be some time before the operations backlog is cleared.

One TD present at the behind-closed-doors gathering on Wednesday night told the Irish Independent: "Leo was quite firm. He said anyone looking to bump someone up the list would be wasting their time."

When contacted about the minister's comments, his spokesman said Mr Varadkar was happy to receive representations from TDs and senators about their constituents' issues with the health service.

"However, he draws the line at any requests for queue skipping," the spokesman said.

"Urgent patients should be seen first and everyone else in chronological order.

"If there is a waiting list, nobody should be allowed to move up it simply because they contacted a politician.

"Inevitably, moving somebody up a waiting list means someone else being bumped down the list, and that's not right."

Mr Varadkar has previously stated it could be the summer before the health service tackles the backlog of patients whose operations were postponed last month because of emergency department overcrowding.

Thousands of non-urgent surgery procedures had to be postponed to create ward space for patients in what was the worst month for hospital overcrowding since the Government came to power.

It is hoped the number of operations taking place over the summer can be ramped up by keeping open wards which would traditionally be shut during quieter months.

According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, the number of people on hospital trolleys yesterday was 412, down from this week's high point of 523 on Wednesday.

At the height of the crisis last month, some 601 people were on trolleys. Earlier this week Mr Varadkar said he wanted to reduce the number of people waiting on trolleys to an average of 70 a day.

He also said he was committed to cutting waiting times for in-patient day case treatment and outpatient appointments to a maximum of 15 months by the end of the year.

Irish Independent

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