Wednesday 22 May 2019

Investment needed to reduce waiting times

Bed capacities and staff recruitment and retention are just some of the areas, TD Marc MacSharry feels needs to be addressed in the health sector presently.

"It's going to take a substantial amount of political courage," said MacSharry following Friday's 'Health in Crisis' breakfast seminar.

The Fianna Fáil TD outlined that waiting lists were a huge issue for many constituents in Sligo.

"The vast majority of constituency calls these days are predominantly about health, housing and social welfare concerns. Waiting lists are a huge issue."

Outlining many calls to his own constituency office from members of the public voicing issues within the health sector, Deputy MacSharry said one man last week was told he would be waiting two years for a much needed appointment.

"I had somebody in last week, a diabetic who needs to see a podiatrist as part of their treatment and it's a two year waiting list. It seems to me inevitable that his condition is likely to deteriorate."

Referring to Dr Fergal Hickey's opinions regarding streamlining emergency departments around the country, the politician said he did not fully agree with the doctor's thoughts.

"Dr Hickey said we have 29 emergency departments in the country and he felt we needed about six, I wouldn't entirely agree with him. I think we have a culture in Ireland and a geographical challenge in Ireland."

MacSharry said he believes that people are prepared to travel for the best diagnosis and treatment, but said follow-up treatments such as radium should be able to be provided for people as near to them as possible.

"Maybe we can develop and deliver them locally or regionally so that it reduces travel for people."

Touching on the issue of bed capacity, MacSharry also referenced the story of a 92-year-old man in Sligo University Hospital for over 70 days despite being deemed well after seven days.

"There is a crisis in home help and that's all about getting the money where it needs to be."

He added, "I think the political establishment have abdicated responsibility through the last number of decades whereby we have sub-contracted leadership to third party organisations, such as the HSE."

"The HSE have a hugely important role to play, but leaders need to be leaders."

Speaking about reducing waiting lists, MacSharry believes the National Treatment Purchase Fund needs to be resourced in order to tackle this.

"Between the in and outpatient waiting lists we're up on a million which is absolutely unprecedented."

Also speaking about waiting times and the fund at Friday's seminar, Fianna Fáil Leader Micheal Martin quoted figures showing a dramatic increase.

"In 2010 the head of the National Treatment Purchase Fund was disappointed that there was 891 people waiting over 12 months. By 2017 that figure had gone from 891 under Fianna Fáil, to 18,000. James Reilly abolished the purchase fund. The waiting list grew dramatically," said Martin.

MacSharry said it was important for cross party partnership on the issue of health care and not to get caught up with statistics around spending.

"When you look at the amount of money per capita we're spending we're up there as the fifth highest in the ESRI but that's just a statistic. The reality is we're investing 7% of our GDP in health which is one of the lower ones.

"We need delivery for patients. That requires better management."

Sligo Champion