Wednesday, 27 February 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
First, I send congratulations and solidarity to the family of Pat Finucane on the significant victory in the Supreme Court in London. For the first time there is judicial recognition that no proper investigation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights was carried out into his murder 30 years ago. The family have struggled for years to get this far and have shown dignity and grace in the face of sheer refusal and duplicity from British Governments. It is time the murder of Pat Finucane is properly and publicly investigated in a public inquiry. Nothing less will suffice.
On another matter, figures I received last week show that in Mayo 130 adults and 55 children are on the waiting list for inpatient ear, nose and throat, ENT, treatment and there are 2,028 adults and 823 children on the outpatient list awaiting treatment. That is more than 3,000 people in Mayo alone. The reason I investigated the figures is that I received a call from the parent of a child with autism who needed an appointment. She was told it would be two and a half years before the child would get an appointment. I thought that had to be wrong but on seeing the waiting list I realise it is true. It is absolutely scandalous in this day and age, when we talk about rainy day funds and how well the economy is doing, to have 3,000 people in one county alone waiting for ENT treatment. Delays in treatment can lead to permanent and irreversible damage to patients. Many patients in need of ENT treatment suffer from a range of other physical and intellectual disabilities as well. That magnifies the problem. As I mentioned last week, 60 more children were failed by the audiology testing services. In many of these cases earlier diagnosis and swift treatment could potentially have reduced any harm caused by this systemic failure.
The lack of urgency to clear the waiting list for 2019 shows that little has changed in terms of Government priorities. The Minister, Deputy Harris, said he plans to publish the joint Department of Health, HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, scheduled care access plan for 2019 shortly. I urge him to make that a priority and to ensure that adequate funding and resources are provided to reduce and eventually clear these waiting lists. It is inhumane to have children suffering in this way only to be told that they must wait two and a half years for treatment. It must be dealt with. I ask that the Minister be invited to the House to discuss that plan and what he is planning to do to reduce the lists. It is impossible to explain to a child that because one does not have the money the child cannot get the treatment he or she needs.