Fianna Fáil claim 'national scandal' with almost one million people on waiting lists

The health minister has defended the Government's record on waiting lists

Fianna Fáil claim 'national scandal' with almost one million people on waiting lists

Nurses stand in the corridor of an intensive care | Image: Patrick Seeger/DPA/PA Images

Updated 11:55

The Health Minister Simon Harris has defended the Government's record on hospital waiting lists.

Figures released by Fianna Fáil earlier suggest almost one million people are on hospital waiting lists.

The party said an analysis of various health waiting lists reveal that there are 997,258 patient appointments outstanding in the first half of the year.

However, launching the new Sláintecare Implementation Plan, Minister Harris said he does not accept the Government is missing its targets.

"No I don't, because I published an in-patient day-case action plan this year that we are on track to meet and we are very shortly going to publish an outpatient plan which I would expect the health service to deliver," he said.

"Do I share the frustration of everybody that we need to better on waiting times? Of course I do.

"That is why we are publishing a plan to increase capacity.

"I find it difficult to take lectures from a party that reduced the number of hospital beds - but I am all about new politics these days."

Earlier, Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary described the waiting list figures as 'a national scandal'.

"The very fact that there are almost one million people waiting for an appointment speaks for itself," he said.

"Never before have we seen a situation whereby people have been failed so badly by a government.

"The vast majority of this list is based on the National Treatment Purchase Fund monthly waiting times.

"In June 2018 some 717,419 were on the lists compiled by the fund.

"However the NTPF does not publish waiting lists for a number of diagnostic scans and the latest available figures showed a further 135,000 waiting for MRIs, ultrasounds and CT scans."

Mr Calleary also said there are "significant waiting lists" for community care - with 37,229 people waiting for either speech and language therapy or assessment in June.

While he said a further 31,361 were waiting for an occupational therapy assessment in the same month.

The HSE was unable to provide figures for the number of people waiting for actual occupational therapy treatment.

Mr Calleary added: "The scale of these waiting lists is truly shocking and highlights very clearly the level of demand and the lack of capacity available to meet it.

"The latest available figures reveal that over 148,000 outpatients had been waiting over one year to see a consultant."

Inexperience

Meanwhile Independent TD Mattie McGrath said Minister Harris is 'too inexperienced' to solve the waiting list crisis.

"The waiting lists are growing, in spite the fact that the National Treatment Purchase Fund is open again - the waiting lists are still growing.

"We are short 400 consultants in our hospitals, we are short thousands of nurses - my own hospital hear in Clonmel in Tipperary is short of over 70 nurses.

"This is scandalous. He is making no effort or no impact and he is ineffectual. He is literally standing idly by."

Minister Harris said the Sláintecare Implementation Plan will serve as a guideline for the future of the health service.

The plan includes commitments to reduce hospital waiting times, increase bed capacity and attempt to disconnect public and private healthcare.

Additional reporting: Michael Staines