By Juno McEnroe and Fiachra Ó Cionnaith
The scale of the health waiting lists crisis has been laid bare by Fianna Fáil, which estimates 1m patient appointments were outstanding this year. The situation is a “national scandal”, says the party.
“The very fact that there are almost 1m people waiting for an appointment speaks for itself,” said Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader Dara Calleary. “Never before have we seen a situation whereby people have been failed so badly by a government.”
The focus on waiting list numbers comes as the Government sets out elements of a long-awaited health reform strategy today.
Health Minister Simon Harris will publish the Slaintecare Implementation Strategy, the cross-party plan which sets out a vision for the future of healthcare over 10 years. It will set out goals and actions over the first three years.
Fianna Fáil said the vast majority of the 1m outstanding patient appointment numbers is based on the national treatment purchase fund monthly lists. In June, 717,419 were on the lists compiled by the fund. However, this does not include some scan waiting lists, it said.
The latest figures showed a further 135,000 waiting for MRIs, ultrasounds, and CT scans.
A further 31,361 were waiting for an occupational therapy assessment in the same month in April, it was added.
A full list breaking down the estimated 997,258 patient appointments outstanding in the first half of 2018 has been compiled by the opposition party.
“There will be no improvement in the situation unless there is investment in capacity and, as our population continues to live longer, it poses more serious issues for our health service. The ESRI has projected that demand for public hospital services could increase by up to 37% for inpatient bed days by 2030. The time for grand plans, staged strategies and PR launches is over. What we need now is action.”
The Slaintecare Implementation Strategy today will include a commitment that within thee months its new director will return with a detailed plan.
The Government has promised better governance of the HSE, including the establishment of a board. There are also plans to expand capacity across community and acute hospital sectors with new elective-only facilities — a key Sláintecare recommendation.