HSE waiting lists lengthen for outpatients
on 22/09/2012 00:00:00
Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Tony O'Brien, acting HSE chief executive, said urgent cases, including all cancer referrals, would need to be prioritised.
He said the HSE had already begun a process of finding out how many people were awaiting a procedure and hospitals needed to bring services back in line with the HSE's service plan.
"In the month of July, 193,400 people attended for outpatient appointments. In the same month, almost 340,000 people were on lists," he said, adding that the latter figure was "way too many" but that the health system would do better.
Mr O'Brien said the problem was that cases not deemed urgent meant people could wait "an interminable amount of time" and, in some cases, the nature of the referral needed to be changed.
"Where people have been referred on an urgent basis, the evidence shows in this report that those referrals are seen much more quickly than the headline suggests."
Mr O'Brien said the number of people on trolleys had been reduced and some cost-cutting measures would not affect patient care and would be subject to strict risk assessment.
Independent senator and consultant oncologist John Crown said the increase in outpatient waiting times was "an inevitable consequence" of the current system and the way it is resourced.
Also speaking on RTÉ Radio, he said: "I think the news is uniformly bad."
The shortage of specialists was "incredibly stark in Ireland", Mr Crown said. He questioned whether there could be a productivity rise because the health system did not want to pay for it.
"I don't think we are under-funded, I think we are 'malfunded'," he said, claiming it was a system based on the enhancing of annual budgets.
"The quicker [the minister] moves to insurance-based health finance and insurance the better," he said.
He said some people waiting four years for an appointment "beggars belief" and added: "If we had abortion, the waiting list would be 10 months."