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€18m fund to cut hospital waiting lists

AN €18m intervention fund has been set up to tackle A&E overcrowding and patient waiting lists.

The establishment of the fund comes some two years after the Government set up a Special Delivery Unit (SDU) tasked with resolving the two politically sensitive and problematic areas in the health system.

Five hospitals with recurring problems of overcrowding in emergency departments and long patient waiting times will now be scrutinised as part of a new National Intervention Strategy.

The five hospitals listed are Beaumont Hospital, the Mater Hospital, Cork University Hospital, Galway University Hospital and the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick.

The National Intervention Strategy will involve teams of up to 10 people from the SDU carrying out day-long site visits. These visits were due to begin this week and continue for the next five weeks.

A spokesperson for Health Minister James Reilly said the teams will "analyse what's happening on the ground" and agree a plan of action with the hospital on the day. The team will then revisit two weeks later to see if the proposed "tweaks" have been working.

How this work differs from the work of the SDU remains unclear.

The SDU was set up in 2011 and was tasked to oversee eight hospitals who were responsible for almost 60pc of the trolley-waiting problem. These included the five hospitals listed above.

The SDU has given hospitals some funding in the past – but not from a specially created fund.

The HSE is under severe financial pressure.

A spokesperson for the minister said the €18m for the special fund had been "identified in the overall resources of the HSE".