Ireland’s record-breaking hospital waiting-list crisis could be solved by imposing a single waiting-list system, to sends patients to hospitals with space available rather than the nearest.
Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly put forward the plan yesterday as she called Health Minister Simon Harris’s five-point plan to tackle the scandal as little more than “re-packaging” previously failed policies.
Speaking at Leinster House, the former health worker claimed Ireland’s 530,000-strong waiting list could be significantly reduced if the system was replaced with a model used in Portugal.
Under the current system, every hospital in the country has its own waiting list, meaning some facilities face chronic delays in treating patients while others have far less pressure placed upon them.
The issue is partially due to the fact hospitals have different specialisms and resources, and is already being addressed to some degree by the hospital groups’ system introduced by former health ministers James Reilly and Leo Varadkar which connects facilities in specific regions to each other.
However, promoting her own plan yesterday, Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson Ms O’Reilly said there was a need to scrap the current waiting list system entirely.
“The integrated waiting list works because it means if the queue is moving faster in another hospital you can transfer to that hospital, you can get the treatment you need quick, you can get the treatment in a timely fashion. In Portugal when they introduced it 11 years ago not only did it have an immediate impact, it had a long-lasting and sustainable impact,” she said.
However, when pressed, she but was unable to clarify the reduction rate.
Mr Harris has said his plan would reduce the number of people waiting over 18 months by 50% this year. While the target is focussed on just 3,500 patients out of 530,000 on waiting lists, the minister said it was one of many steps to address the health crisis.
However, Ms O Reilly said measures will fail to solve the scandal.
“It is little more than a re-hashing and a re-packaging. What we have now is a minister who doesn’t have the money and has to repackage these measures and has to try and fix our ailing health service on the cheap.
“He’s repackaging plans his predecessors have tried. Now if he wants to call that leadership, good luck to him, but it doesn’t seem like leadership to me,” she said.
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