Thursday, 12 May 2022
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
I thank the Deputy. I appreciate that the issue he is raising is that of waiting lists at Letterkenny hospital and the waiting times for people who live in Donegal. He is also raising the wider issue of hospital overcrowding. I do not have updated information on Letterkenny with me so I do not want to give the Deputy information that may be incorrect.
However, I can speak about the general picture in relation to what the Government is doing to reduce waiting lists. We do acknowledge that there are far too many people waiting on healthcare for far too long. Even before the pandemic this was an issue but of course, it has become a much more serious issue because so much care was delayed, and had to be delayed, as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. That was further affected by the cyberattack on the HSE. The Government has a plan to reduce waiting times considerably. We have set aside a dedicated budget for this plan of €350 million per year. It is a huge budget to implement the waiting list plan and that will go to public hospitals and also to private hospitals, where appropriate. We need to use whatever capacity we have to get people the treatment they need. If the waiting list plan works then by the end of 2022 the number of patients on active waiting lists will be at its lowest point in five years. I cannot guarantee that is going to happen but that is the plan we are working on. If it does happen, it will be a minor achievement, at the least, to have waiting lists at their lowest in five years by the end of this year. That is the Government's objective and of course, that applies to Donegal and Letterkenny as well.
We will offer treatment to all 75,000 patients on the active inpatient and day case waiting lists at the end of 2021 by the end of 2022 and will ensure that 1.7 million people are removed from waiting lists for scheduled care in 2022. In addition, we are expanding the capacity in our existing hospitals. There are between 800 and 1,000 more beds in the system than before the pandemic and we are continuing to add to that. We need to do that because we have a population that is increasing and aging all of the time, with the additional healthcare needs that come with that.