Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Hospital Waiting Lists: Motion [Private Members]
I thank Sinn Féin for bringing forward this topic for discussion. The issue of hospital waiting lists has, in many cases, been exacerbated by the impact of the Government's response to the Covid pandemic. I have highlighted many times the scandal of curtailing services such as cancer screening as part of the Covid response. I hope big lessons have been learned from those decisions. We also need to remember hospital waiting lists have been a long-standing, unresolved issue and a major problem long before Covid entered our vocabulary, as has overcrowding. News reports on how many people were left on hospital trolleys or in corridors were a regular occurrence, yet in the last 18 months we have been conditioned to panic upon hearing the hospitals were only approaching capacity. Hospitals and our public health service are, unfortunately, now used to operating at levels exceeding capacity.
Of all the billions spend on health-related matters over the past 18 months, what have we really got to show for it as we go forward? Will any of the billions spent have any lasting positive effect on our health service? The bigger picture appears to have been lost in a blaze of panic. How useful could all the billions have been in providing a type of SwiftCare clinic in every large town, for example, to ease pressure on the hospitals, or in adding to the money raised by the people of Wexford to fund an MRI scanner, which has yet to materialise? The HSE has spent billions on ventilators that did not work and personal protective equipment, PPE, gear that was not fit for purpose. That was pure waste.
It is not all about spending money hand over fist. It is about trying to use the financial resources available in the most useful way possible. That cannot be said of the HSE, as we have seen at the Committee of Public Accounts for the past two weeks. If these wrongs go without accountability, how will things change? Accountability must be part of change.
As the population ages and life expectancy rises higher and higher, we will see further demand for certain medical procedures. We not only need to ensure we have capacity but that we have excess capacity to be able to meet the rising demand over the next few years. In Wexford, we have more than 500 families waiting for home care supports. There are no carers. Massive waiting lists are being reported across all areas of the health service, from scans and consultant appointments to primary care services, such as dental, occupational therapy, audiology, speech and language therapy, mental health and dietetics. I spoke previously of an orthodontic waiting list for teenagers of more than six years. These waiting lists mean that problems go untreated and, often, become worse. We need to tackle the issue head-on across all sectors.