New plan to reduce hospital wait lists

All patients waiting more than nine months for “high volume” operations or procedures are to be offered treatment by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

Treatment for around 50 procedures, including cataracts, hip and knee replacements, tonsils, varicose veins, and scopes will be provided.

The focus on the longest waiters is part of a new action plan published yesterday by Health Minister Simon Harris to reduce waiting lists.

This year the HSE will provide 1.14m hospital operations or procedures and the NTPF will provide 20,000 inpatient day case treatments and 4,000 gastrointestinal scopes. Under the plan, the number of patients waiting longer than nine months will fall by 10,000.

Mr Harris said the overall number of patients waiting will fall from a peak of 86,100 in July 2017 to under 70,000 by the end of the year.

The operations and procedures will be performed in both public and private hospitals where there is available capacity.

The Inpatient/Day Case Action Plan 2018 was compiled by the Department of Health, the HSE and the NTPF.

Mr Harris said the plan marks “a very important milestone” in delivering on the Government’s increased investment to tackle waiting lists and added that he would publish a plan to tackle outpatient waiting lists shortly.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien said the HSE welcomes the funding of €55m that has been made to the NTPF and the funding provided to the HSE this year to tackle waiting lists.

Tony O'Brien
Tony O'Brien

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, denied that the opening of a new 75-bed ward block at University Hospital Galway is a “public relations” exercise.

Mr Varadkar had travelled to Galway to open the block and it was pointed out to him that the number of admitted patients awaiting a bed fell from 58 to 26 overnight.

“It is not a PR exercise; it is a very substantial improvement in the quality of healthcare being provided to the people of Galway and, indeed, people from other parts of the west who use the hospital as well,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said that trolley figures are too high and that people should not have to wait more than nine hours to be admitted to a hospital bed. However, solving the problem would not be simple but additional bed capacity would help and that was happening.

He said a number of hospitals such as Beaumont in Dublin, Cavan General, and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth, had all shown that overcrowding could be managed.

“You need to have a certain amount of additional resources and additional capacity but most of all you need good clinical leadership, co-operation from trade unions and good management,” said Mr Varadkar.

According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, there were 548 patients on trolleys in emergency departments and on wards waiting for a bed yesterday, a 59% increase on the same day last year when there were 345.

Cork University Hospital had 73 patients waiting, the highest number; University Hospital Limerick had 56, and South Tipperary General Hospital had 33.

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