The HSE will recruit over 6,000 new staff in a bid to reduce waiting times.
Chief executive Paul Reid told the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee that the health service had a “massive challenge” ahead of it:
“We in the HSE and the Department are anxious to put together a kind of restoration approach, not only to deal with non-Covid illnesses but also to address the size of waiting lists.
“We want to do that from a few perspectives. We will, first of all, look at how we can increase capacity in the public system. That will mean significant extra recruitment and resourcing, for which we have funding… We are going to take a comprehensive approach but it will be a massive challenge.”
During the pandemic, hospitals stopped performing all but “time-dependent critical surgeries”. As a consequence, waiting times for some operations have soared.
Currently 38 women have been waiting longer than 18 months for breast surgery, while 90 people have yet to be treated for cancer.
In August 2019 the number of people waiting for general surgery increased from 9,721 to 12,334 in August 2021. While the number of women in need of gynaecological treatment went from 4,678 to 5,383 - an increase of 15%.
However, other treatments, such as cardiothoracic surgery and cardiology procedures, saw a drop in the number of people on waiting lists.
The 6,200 new recruits will be in addition to the 4,500 new staff members hired already this year; nearly half of whom are expected to be recruited by the beginning of 2022.
A further 6,000 staff were hired in 2020, meaning the health service currently employs an additional 10,500 people more than it did prior to the pandemic.
Main image: A healthcare worker looks after a COVID patient in ICU. Picture by: PA/Manu Fernandez