Thursday, 2 December 2021
Department of Health
244. To ask the Minister for Health the extent to which he expects the health services to continue the long battle against Covid-19 based on the current strength and staffing levels; if he is satisfied that all urgent treatments and procedures can continue notwithstanding the threat of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59762/21]
COVID-19 brought a range of challenges to our health service . It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted in the last twenty months as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and more recently as a result of the ransomware attack. While significant progress was made in reducing waiting times from June 2020 onwards, the surge in Covid-19 cases in the first quarter of 2021 and the associated curtailment of acute hospital services, coupled with the ransomware attack of May 2021 and current fourth wave has impacted waiting times.
Improving waiting times for hospital appointments and procedures remains a commitment of this Government. For 2022 an additional allocation of €250 million, comprised of €200 million to the HSE and €50 million to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) has been provided in respect of work to reduce hospital and community waiting lists.
In addition, the Department of Health, the HSE and the NTPF are also working on a Multi Annual Waiting List Plan to bring waiting lists in line with Sláintecare targets over the coming years. This process will be overseen by a Ministerial Taskforce, chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and includes representatives from the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund. The plan will be informed by the lessons learned from the successful Vaccine Taskforce.
It is also important to note that Emergency Departments have remained open to patients throughout the pandemic and will remain open. Appropriate infection prevention and control measures are in place including dual pathways for Covid and non-Covid patient and the use of PPE.
In addition, the continued provision of cancer care has also been identified as a priority in the National Action Plan on Covid 19 and Cancer services continue to operate in line with guidance issued by the HSE's National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), incorporating appropriate physical distancing and infection control measures
COVID-19 has also brought a range of challenges to our health service workforce. To continue to meet the ongoing demands caused by the pandemic, as well as to provide necessary resources for the longer-term health care requirements of our population, the health sector workforce is expanding.
The Government is committed to funding the provision of healthcare in order to deliver services in line with Sláintecare objectives. This is underpinned by the provision of funding in Budget 2022 which allows for the continued growth of the health sector workforce up to an estimated 141,491 WTE in 2022. This would be a further increase of 10,855 WTE from the current numbers equating to an increase of 8%.
The National Service Plan for 2022 which will set out the type and volume of services that the HSE will provide next year in respect of its significant budget of over €20.5billion was formally submitted for my approval by the HSE on 23rdNovember.
As per the legislative provisions, following formal submission by the HSE, I now have 21 days to approve the Plan or request amendments to the Plan.