Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has said that the Minister for Health’s waiting list plan will be a rehashing of old targets and previously announced funding, which will not tackle the backlog and the tsunami of missed care.
He said that while ambitious targets are important and necessary, unachievable targets which are not credible, realistic, or deliverable are not acceptable.
Teachta Cullinane contended that without a plan to tackle the fundamental workforce challenges to train, recruit, and retain enough healthcare professionals to cut waiting times, and without significant investment in theatre capacity and diagnostic equipment, the Minister’s plan will be a repackaged wishlist.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“The Minister for Health is set to announce repackaged old measures as a new waiting list plan.
“The fact of the matter is that this will be nothing more than a rehashing of old targets and previously announced funding, with no additional substance.
“There are now 1.34 million people on health waiting lists – 893,000 on hospital waiting lists, 224,000 on Primary and Community waiting lists, and 226,000 on diagnostics waiting lists.
“A major portion of the funding will go to the NTPF to outsource care, much of it to the private sector for diagnostics and treatment.
“We need to phase out reliance on outsourcing and build additional capacity into the public sector for diagnostic and surgical theatre capacity, including filling vacant consultant posts and hiring more specialist nurses.
“Any worthwhile waiting list plan must address the fundamental causes of waiting lists – we are not training, recruiting, and retaining enough healthcare professionals, and the system is not resourced to give them the tools to do the job.
“In 2021, funding was provided for 16,000 additional staff but only just over 6,000 were recruited.
“The remaining target of 10,000 won’t be reached this year – it will likely be missed by 4,500.
“While ambitious targets are important and necessary, the Minister is setting unachievable targets to flex his muscles, but they are not credible, realistic, or deliverable.
“There is no substance behind them and that is not acceptable and undermines confidence. It is not good enough to set targets which the Minister and Department know cannot be met.
“The fundamentals for reform are seriously lacking. Regional Health Areas should be the drivers of reform which can be held accountable for waiting lists – but only superficial changes are planned.
“Similarly, multi-year budgeting based on population need and regional capacity inequalities must be put in place as part of any serious waiting list plan.
“If the Minister’s plan was serious, it would include additional funding for major capital projects to expand physical capacity, upgrade IT systems, and increase space for more inpatient and recovery beds.
“Without a step change in investment, a proactive, joined up workforce development plan, and Regional Health Areas, the fundamentals for tackling waiting lists are not there, and the Minister’s plan will be a repackaged wishlist.”