Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson, Billy Kelleher TD has said the re-activation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund in today’s expenditure announcement is an important step in addressing the rocketing hospital waiting lists, but has said that more resources will be required over the next number of years to end the scandal of waiting lists.

“Last week, the September 2016 hospital waiting lists showed that 78,696 patients are now waiting for in-patient / day case surgery – up 56 per cent in two and a half years.”

“That’s nearly eighty thousand Irish citizens, and eight thousand Irish families, who are waiting anxiously to receive a diagnostic or surgical procedure.”

“Our hospital system just isn’t meeting the needs of the Irish people. Non-acute patients are being left high and dry by a system that is creaking, and groaning, under the slightest increase in demand,” said Kelleher.

“The National Treatment Purchase Fund – abandoned foolishly by former Health Minister,James Reilly – was originally established by Fianna Fáil in Government and was successful in reducing waiting times for treatment.”

“During 2010 (the last full year of the Fund’s existence) some 33,000 public patients received treatment and the average waiting time for elective treatment in 2010 was just 2.6 months.”

“Minister Harris’ admission earlier this year that the abandonment of the NTPF was a mistake is welcome, and I hope he will continue to prioritise this fund,” added Kelleher.

“Earlier this year Fianna Fáil secured a commitment to reactivate the Fund in the Confidence and Supply agreement. The reactivation of the fund with a budget of €15 million is a good start, but Minister Harris must fight for continued investment in reducing waiting lists.”

“This reactivation is only the start of what is needed. We cannot have situations where Irish people are waiting for long periods of time, sometimes over 12 or 18 months, for simple procedures. It’s simply not acceptable in the 21st century,” concluded Kelleher.