Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher has said there is a limited period in which Minister Leo Varadkar can deliver a credible, realistic health budget for next year. Deputy Kelleher also said any extra beds delivered before the end of the year need to be permanent to address capacity problems.
Deputy Kelleher said: “The health service has been firefighting because of ridiculous and unrealistic budgets imposed by this government which have actually stored up major problems. Patients are waiting longer for treatment, nurses and doctors don’t want to come to work in the health service and morale for existing staff is at an all-time low.
“The fundamental problem in the health service is a lack of capacity. The 300 beds Minister Varadkar has alluded to coming on stream before the end of the year will begin to address that but I’m concerned it’s not going to be enough to deal with the volume of patients needing help. These beds need to be a permanent addition to the hospital system but we need to know where these beds are going to be, exactly when they will be available and if there is a commitment on staffing and funding to ensure they can stay in use. Again the Minister seems to be strong on promises and short on detail.
“Over 11,000 people are waiting more than 18 months for an out-patient appointment. Astonishingly 5,000 children are waiting more than a year for an appointment. That is an outrageous statistic. The situation is not helped at all by the fact that Leo Varadkar seems to see his role as Lead Commentator as opposed to Cabinet Minister with direct responsibility for the health service.
“The INMO recorded a 40% increase in the number of patients waiting on trolleys in Emergency Departments for the month of August compared with last year. By any yardstick that is a staggering increase. I’m also concerned that if we’re seeing those increases in the summer months that major issues could be coming down the track in the winter.
“The Minister said today he wasn’t satisfied with the progress being made in alleviating waiting lists and emergency department overcrowding. If the Minister was really interested in easing the crisis he would have delivered a proper budget. The Minister was very quick off the mark last year to tell us he was delivering the first realistic budget for the health for years. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’re only in September and we know the HSE is projected to be over €500m short by the end of the year.
“There is a small window of opportunity now for the Minister to deliver a credible budget for 2016 and a realistic service plan that will help patients, ease overcrowding and bring down hospital waiting lists. However this will have to involve Minister Varadkar leading the process instead of merely commenting on it,” concluded Deputy Kelleher.