The HSE has admitted it does not know how long patients are waiting for medical treatment either for hospital procedures or at A&E.
An independent organisation that monitors health services throughout Europe found that Ireland has the longest waiting times and ranked the country 21 out of 38 countries surveyed.
The Swedish-based Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP) also refused to accept the HSE’s own figures, saying that they found them unreliable over the past few years and instead used figures from patients groups.
The HSE said it objected to to the fact that the report did not use their official data, but accepts that “it has challenges in relation to data”.
It blames this on the lack of investment during the recession that meant they did not invest in the technology needed to track patients through the system.
This “has inhibited our ability to properly track an individual’s interaction with the health service”, the statement said.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar, while saying that he “would not put much store” by the report from a private Swedish company, did acknowledge that waiting times to access a doctor are very long.
But he said that this had noting to do with people waiting on trolleys and said: “We don’t count that time, so I’m not sure how they came to that figure.
“I’m sure we do not compare well but this is not about overcrowding.”
The HSE in its statement admitted it cannot provide the kind of accessible health services needed to meet the current and the future needs of the population.
“The twin impact of the economic recession and demographic changes in recent years has left the needs of the population and the capacity of the health system out of balance,” its statement said.
It agreed that the numbers waiting for more than four months for out-treatment assessment and in-patient treatment are unacceptably high, and say it is working with the Minister for Health to cut this waiting time to a maximum of 18 months.
The HSE said that the overall length of time spent on waiting lists has improved in recent years.
It believes the eHealth project, including the individual health identifier and eReferral currently being rolled out, will help.
“These initiatives will allow the collection of more reliable data on a patient’s journey through the Irish health system, which in turn can factually inform reports such as the EHCI.”
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