Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health, Billy Kelleher has said that unless the Government urgently increases capacity in the health system, routine, non-acute procedures and diagnostics will no longer be guaranteed as a right to citizens.
Deputy Kelleher was commenting after updated figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund show that the number of people awaiting procedures has exceeded 687,000 for the first time ever.
“This is a scandalous situation, and a situation that is not going to improve unless Minister Harris and the Government increase capacity in the health system to ensure speedier access to diagnostics and non-acute procedures.
“We now have a very real scenario that non-acute procedures will not be able to be guaranteed by the State in a timely manner.
“These people aren’t waiting weeks for access to the system. It is months and years, and the negative impact on people’s health and wellbeing will only worsen as time goes by.
“The only way to address these waiting lists in the long term is by increasing capacity. Put simply, we need more doctors, more nurses, more biomedical scientists and more physical capacity such as wards, beds and theatres in the system.
“In the short term, the Government must look at radically expanding the National Treatment Purchase Fund to ensure that those waiting for appointments or tests are seen as quickly as possible.
“Last year, Fianna Fáil secured the restarting of the NTPF after Fine Gael mothballed it in 2012. Budget 2018 must see a major increase in funding to the NTPF to make better use of the private health sector in Ireland, the North and indeed Great Britain.
“There will be those who will rail against the use of private hospitals to alleviate waiting lists, but I, in good conscience, can not let blind ideology stop people being treated.
“When it comes to public health, blind adherence to ideology puts patients and people at risk, and that cannot be allowed to happen.
“Minister Harris needs to urgently bring forward proposals to Government about how he will address these waiting lists, and assure the public that the Irish health system will be more than an acute system, and that routine treatments and procedures will be dealt with in a timely manner,” concluded Kelleher.