June 8, 2022
Sláintecare implementation falls short of ambition and urgency needed – David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has said the Minister for Health’s Sláintecare Action Plan 2022 “falls short of the ambition and urgency needed by the 1.3 million patients on hospital, diagnostic, and community waiting lists”.

Teachta Cullinane said that the short-term targets set out earlier this year by the Minister are a long way off the Sláintecare targets of 12 weeks for an outpatient appointment, 10 weeks for an inpatient appointment, and 10 days for a diagnostic test.

The Waterford TD said that despite the significant budget allocated to Health and the progression of several important measures, there are several major weaknesses in the Minister’s plan.

These include the absence of clear training, recruitment and retention targets to maximise the number of workers entering and staying in the health service.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“The Sláintecare Action Plan for 2022, while containing some vital measures, falls short of the ambition and urgency needed to deliver for the 1.3 million patients on waiting lists.

“The Health Service is a long distance from the Sláintecare waiting targets, and emergency departments are severely overcapacity, with no long-term plan in sight to bring wait times to acceptable and safe levels.

“At the end of last year, there were 21,000 people waiting over a year for a hospital inpatient appointment. That number was only reduced by 300 in the first 4 months of the year.

“The problems in hospitals will not be addressed unless there is a significant expansion of primary and community care to provide alternatives for patients, and to deliver preventative healthcare to halt the deterioration of conditions and reduce hospitalisations.

“Despite a significant budget, the HSE cannot deliver all of the home help hours or fill the positions in community healthcare because the staff simply don’t exist, and in some areas pay and conditions are severely limiting recruitment options.

“There are more than 700 vacant consultant posts, there has been no progress on the new consultant contract, non-consultant hospital doctors are on the verge of strike action, and there are more than 700 vacancies in children’s disability network teams alone.

“The absence of clear training, recruitment and retention targets to maximise the number of workers entering and staying in the health service is a major weakness in the Minister’s plans.

“A cornerstone measure which is essential to tackling waiting lists are elective hospitals, but it is taking far too long to advance their development. It will take years yet before they are built and operational.

“Progress on delivering the right care, in the right place, at the right time has been frustratingly slow since the Sláintecare programme was agreed by all parties, which makes you question the commitment of Government to really delivering universal healthcare.

“The major changes that are needed to provide universal GP care and to remove private healthcare from public hospitals have not been advanced, meaning there is no plan to end the two-tier health service.

“Regional Health Areas should be the core driver of change in the health service, but the Government has signed off on a diluted and weakened version that keeps control in the centre instead of placing accountability closer to the problems. 

“They have fudged realignment and it is a far from satisfactory approach to healthcare reform.

“Without addressing these major issues, the Minister does not have a credible plan for delivering the real change in healthcare that is so desperately needed.”