Dáil debates

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Hospital Waiting Lists: Motion [Private Members]


8:45 pm

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change) | Oireachtas source

Today the Minister announced plans to bring forward proposals to establish a task force on waiting lists and to seek extra funding to resource this in the forthcoming budget. This is to be welcomed but the question has to be asked, why is it only now, with waiting lists approaching nearly 1 million, that emergency action is being considered? The plan to provide three new elective hospitals in Dublin, Galway and Cork is also long overdue. The response of our public health service staff to the Covid-19 pandemic shows what is possible and what can be achieved if they are given the necessary resources and funding. However, decades of underfunding have left us with insufficient staff capacity, bed capacity and infrastructure. The task now is to urgently build capacity. Unless this is done, no amount of plans or task forces will resolve the crisis.

The details on waiting lists make for alarming reading. I will not repeat them. They are outlined in the motion. It is an absolute scandal that 98,000 children are on waiting lists, with one third of these having been on those lists for more than 18 months. These include children with special needs who face an average wait of 19 months for an assessment of need.

I will refer to the pre-budget submission of the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO. It has said that, with just below 1.5 consultants per 1,000 of population, we have the lowest number of specialists in the EU, where the average is 2.5 per 1,000 of population. The number of consultants needs to double to meet present needs and the needs of a growing population. Over the past five years, almost 3,000 doctors left the Medical Council register to work abroad. This is a serious problem in respect of recruitment, training and retention of staff. Poor working conditions, poor work-life balance and career uncertainty are the key factors. These were, of course, greatly exacerbated by the pandemic, but they existed before Covid and will continue to exist if the necessary action is not taken.

According to the IMO, at three beds per 1,000 of population, our bed capacity is significantly below the EU average of five beds per 1,000 of population . Our rate of five beds per 100,000 of population for critical care is again way below the EU average, namely 12 beds per 1,000 of population.

The Minister has quoted the extra funding and the increase number of beds and critical care beds but the Government's plans are based on the minimum - and I stress "minimum" - requirements identified in the health service capacity review of 2018. These requirements were dependant on significant expansion of GP and community-based services, as well as community and long-term services for older people, none of which have been achieved. The Government plans, even if they are achieved, which is very unlikely, are not sufficient to meet the needs of our population.

The IMO is also calling for an additional 5,000 public acute beds, serious investment in a stand-alone hospital for elective care, a doubling of critical care capacity to 550 beds and an urgent assessment of resource diagnostics, radiology and laboratory requirements to eliminate bottlenecks and ensure timely results for hospital doctors and GPs. We need investment in GP facilities to enable a shift to greater community care, as well as investment in women's health, mental health, ehealth, IT infrastructure, social care and social care needs for older people.

Taking the Sláintecare report out of the drawer it is confined to in the Department of Health and waving it around occasionally will not do any more. We need the political will - which I have not seen since the resignation of our two head people in Sláintecare - the resources and the finances to meet a very basic human need, that is to say, access to timely, high-quality healthcare based on need rather than on ability to pay.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.