Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall has described the daily suffering behind the hospital waiting list numbers as “appalling”.
Ms Shortall was commenting on the latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) which showed a record 718,165 patients on hospital waiting lists.
She criticised the Government for its “sluggish” response.
“The endless cycle of upwardly spiralling waiting lists is inexcusable for a Government that is two-and-a-half years in office,” she said.
“There is simply not enough urgency in getting to grips with the blockages and capacity needs within the health system.”
The NTPF released nine separate waiting lists for August that include 514,585 people waiting for an outpatient appointment.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the figures include a lot of “double counting” but acknowledged there are too many people on waiting lists.
He said the figures include people who already had an appointment and those suspended from waiting lists because they did not need a procedure anymore or were not fit to have it.
There are people waiting for annual checks and people waiting for a scan and to see a specialist — double counts.
Mr Varadkar said most people now wait less than six months for an inpatient or day-case procedure.
He admitted no progress is being made in reducing the number of people waiting for outpatient appointments, with 350,000 waiting more than three months.
The Department of Health highlighted the 74,189 patients waiting for an inpatient or day-case procedure where “significant progress” had been made because of increased Government investment in the NTPF.
“From a high of 86,000 in July 2017, they have been on a consistent downward trajectory and now stand at 74,000,” said the department.
The figure was down 2,000 at the end of August compared to July and 10,000 year on year, it added.
The Government is spending €50m through the NTPF to tackle waiting lists.
An NTPF graph shows that 511,904 people were waiting for an outpatient appointment on May 31 and 510,718 on July 5.
On August 9, there were 514,215 people waiting. After dipping slightly to 512,205 on August 23, the number steadily increased to 514,585.
Hospital waiting lists have reached a record high. More than 718,000 patients were waiting for a hospital appointment at the end of August. The figures include almost 50,000 children. | https://t.co/ApEo7HwNp4 pic.twitter.com/oZp4CxwwBG— RTÉ News (@rtenews) September 14, 2018
The department said the outpatient waiting list “remained a challenge” but is “being targeted for progress” in the same way as the inpatient/day-case list.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said the figures show the Government is failing to get to grips with the challenges facing the health system.
Mr Donnelly said the performance by Health Minister Simon Harris is not good enough and that it is clear the Government is bereft of ideas and competence on healthcare.
Mr Donnelly said: “82,597 people are now waiting over 18 months to have an examination and this figure is rising month on month.
“This is despite the target set by Leo Varadkar that by the end of June 2015, no one would wait more than 18 months.”
The Private Hospitals Association said it is willing to work with the Department of Health, HSE, and public hospitals to find new solutions to drive down waiting lists.
Chairman Michael Cullen said it is “regrettable” that the group is still awaiting a promised outpatient list action plan that Mr Harris said in April would be delivered “shortly”.
- 82,597 people waiting more than 18 months to see a specialist.
- 66,191 waiting to see an ear, nose and throat specialist.
- 10,691 waiting for an orthopaedic procedure.
- 10,304 children waiting to see a specialist.