Written answers

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Department of Health

Hospital Waiting Lists

Photo of Richard O'DonoghueRichard O'Donoghue (Limerick County, Independent)
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122. To ask the Minister for Health the position regarding the increasing waitlists across all departments within the HSE; his plans to resolve the issue of backlogs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22425/21]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted in the last year as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elective hospital care was curtailed for the first quarter of 2021, in line with the rapid increase in Covid -19 hospital admissions, with only critical time dependent elective procedures undertaken.

On 23 March the HSE published the “Safe Return to Health Services Plan”. This plan outlines a three phased approach for the proposed restoration of services across Community Services, Acute Hospital Operations, Cancer Services and Screening Services. It sets target times for their safe return and details the conditions and challenges that will have to be met. Every phase of the plan has been informed by clinical guidance and putting patient and staff safety first. Decisions in relation to the type and volume of activity will be made at site level based on local COVID-19 numbers, available capacity and guidance from national clinical leads.

The schedule outlined in the plan for resumption of services will be regularly monitored by the HSE and updated as appropriate, dependant on public health advice and healthcare capacity.

Patient safety remains at the centre of all hospital activity and elective care scheduling. To ensure services are provided in a safe, clinically aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols.

€240 million has been provided in Budget 2021 for access to care, €210m of which has been allocated to the HSE and a further €30m to the National Treatment Purchase Fund. This will be used to fund additional capacity to address the shortfall arising as a result of measures taken in the context of COVID-19, as well as to address waiting lists.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund is working closely with Public Hospitals to arrange treatment for clinically suitable patients and as of the end of March, almost 6,000 Inpatient and Day cases, and 4,000 G.I. Scopes offers of treatment had been accepted year-to-date. In terms of Outpatients, the National Treatment Purchase Fund had arranged almost 7,000 appointments by the end of March.

The HSE has advised that as of the end of March 2021, more than 6,700 patients had been seen at City West Convention Centre across a range of outpatient and daycase clinics since the site started to be used for HSE activity in August 2020. There are currently a number of initiatives taking place in conjunction with Children’s Heath Ireland, Ireland East, and Dublin Midlands Hospital Groups.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to continue to provide outpatient access for patients, there has been substantial development in virtual outpatient consultations across acute hospital services. The use of telemedicine has allowed Outpatient activity to continue for clinically suitable patients, reducing the footfall in hospitals and facilitating infection control and social distancing requirements. The HSE has advised that a total of 657,415 virtual outpatient consultations took place in 2020 from March to December (when reporting process commenced). This represents over 27% of the OPD activity during this period. The HSE has further advised that at the end of March 2021 a total of 227,122 patients had been seen virtually year to date.

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