Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher has said the reality of deeply flawed decisions taken by the Government on the health service have seen waiting lists spiral out of control.
Deputy Kelleher said the Government’s latest attempt to get to grip with the crisis by using private services and some providers outside of the country highlight the disastrous decision to dismantle the role of the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
Deputy Kelleher commented: “The National Treatment Purchase Fund was established by Fianna Fáil in 2002 to drive down waiting lists and purchase spare capacity from the private sector to cut the number of public patients waiting for treatment in public hospitals. The fund treated almost 200,000 people with average waiting times being reduced from two/five years to two/three months. Fine Gael and Labour made the disastrous decision to scale back the NTPF with dramatic results. Now outpatient waiting lists have climbed to over 412,000 and of these over 83,000 face delays of more than a year. Nearly 10,000 are waiting over a year for an operation, which is a major risk for their long-term health prospects.
“We need meaningful, long-term solutions to the crisis in our hospitals which will include extra community beds and step-down facilities and greater access to primary care. In our health policy document published last month ‘Putting Patients and Services First’ Fianna Fáil called for the National Treatment Purchase Fund to be re-activated and given the scope to drive waiting lists down again by providing patients with the healthcare they need.
“We have also committed to establishing a special task force to produce a plan to ensure that all scheduled day case/in patient care is delivered within the internationally recognised target of six months.
“Unfortunately we have witnessed four years of regressive health policies, flawed budgets and fire-fighting by the Government and now over 400,000 people are waiting to be seen in the health service. Decisions have been taken over the last four years that have made our health service less accessible and made the public more fearful of falling ill and needing access to it. The plan now to have hospital groups outsource to private health providers to help clear the waiting list backlog is a version of the function previously provided by the NTPF but it remains to be seen how effective this would be and I still believe that reverting to the model operated successfully by the NTPF over many years should still be the priority to get this crisis under control.”