Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has called on the Minister for Health to deliver and sustain a significant investment in capacity in the health service on a multi-annual basis to tackle severe waiting lists.
Teachta Cullinane was responding to the publication of the National Treatment Purchase Fund’s Waiting List figures for April 2023, which show that waiting lists have grown 18,000 since December 2022 and that more than 500,000 patients are waiting longer than the Sláintecare target wait times, including nearly 70,000 children.
The TD for Waterford said that the Minister for Health’s failure to implement a multi-annual workforce and capacity expansion plan has left the health service in crisis. He said that the Minister for Health, after nearly three years, has no credibility until he publishes a comprehensive multi-annual plan to expand capacity and tackle the waiting list crisis.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“Waiting lists increased over the first three months of the year, rising from 870,000 to 888,000 in total. NTPF data also shows that more than 500,000 patients are waiting longer than the 10- and 12-week wait time sláintecare targets.
“The number of patients waiting over Sláintecare targets has increased by nearly 1,500 in the last month, and overall lists have increased by 3,000.
“The Government has not delivered capacity expansions at pace. There is a deficit of at least 1,000 beds in hospitals, more than 6,000 people are waiting for home support.
“The health service is suffering the consequences of bad planning, a failure to sustain investment in capacity, and a lack of funding certainty.
“We have seen no joined-up workforce plan for the health service to address training gaps and recruitment and retention barriers.
“Healthcare workers cannot see a way out of this crisis because there is no plan. The Minister has failed to grapple with this challenge. But this crisis can be solved with political will and sustained capacity expansion as part of a multi-annual plan.
“Government must urgently publish a multi-annual capacity expansion plan to deliver much needed hospital beds, additional diagnostic capacity, and expanded theatre capacity to equip hospitals to deal with the volume of care coming their way.
“This plan must also address Sláintecare reforms and community capacity, such as intermediate care beds and home support to deliver more care outside of hospitals and speed up discharge from hospitals.
“No improvement can be achieved without a paradigm shift in workforce planning. We need a radical increase in the number of healthcare workers we are training, and a serious change in approach to retention in the health service. Too many are leaving early in their career for opportunities abroad or in other sectors. We need legislation to underpin safe staffing levels in wards, emergency departments, and across the health service.
“Government has failed to act on each of these measures for far too long. The Minister for Health has no credibility until he produces a comprehensive multi-annual plan to expand capacity and tackle this crisis.”