More elective surgery is to be switched from winter to summer months in order to ease the annual spike in patients being treated on trolleys, Health Minister Leo Varadkar has signalled.
Under fire in the Dáil to take more action to deal with the crisis, Mr Varadkar said he intended to target what he called “very long waiters”.
“Where it is necessary to prioritise cancer and other complex cases, the HSE assures me that this is being done. This inevitably will affect waiting lists.
“The challenge is to minimise the need for cancellation at short notice and to manage the impact of such cancellations effectively, within the hospital and in collaboration with other hospitals,” he said.
He said he expected it to be the second half of the year before the situation improved, adding that
a shift in health service thinking was needed.
“It is the case that emergency departments are much busier at this time of year every winter. What it might make sense to do would be to smooth out activities in hospitals so we do not plan as many elective procedures in January and instead plan to carry out more in the summer.
“At the moment, the surge happens in January and elective surgery is deferred but then wards are closed in the summer,” Mr Varadkar added.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher accused the Government of failing to live up to its promises regarding dealing with the problem of patients being treated on trolleys.
“The idea that the solution to overcrowding in emergency departments is the cancellation of elective surgery beggars belief. This is creating a major difficulty for individuals in terms of being told their elective surgery has been cancelled and that they are back on waiting lists,” Mr Kelleher said.
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