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The move followed an RTE Investigates programme which aired on Monday night, showing that some waiting list figures had not been published and documenting the human suffering associated with excessive wait times in the public system.
Minister Harris said additional theatre capacity would be provided for scoliosis procedures in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin from April, while an orthopaedic post at the hospital would be filled by June.
An Action Plan for Scoliosis will be presented to the Minister by the HSE by the end of this month, according to the Department.
The NTPF, at the Minister’s request, will now audit the practices in each of the hospitals highlighted by the individual cases featured in the programme and will report to the Minister.
“The NTPF has informed the Minister that the way it classifies its waiting lists has been the same since its inception in 2002 and follows international best practice. However, it has already commenced a review of international best practice on waiting list data publication models,” stated the Department.
“The €5 million provided by the Minister to the NTPF will see over 2,000 day case procedures undertaken and these procedures will start in March.
“The HSE and the NTPF will work together to utilise capacity in both the public and private sector. Working with the NTPF, the HSE will present an Action Plan on Waiting Lists by the end of the month. This plan will concentrate on reducing the length of time patients wait for an inpatient, day case or outpatient appointment, with the aim of no patient waiting longer than 15 months by the end of October. Whilst the Minister considers this is still too long, it would mark a significant reduction in waiting times with an aim of reducing waiting lists further in the next plan.
“Budget 2017 makes provision for the treatment of long-waiting patients. €20 million has been allocated to the NTPF rising to €55 million in 2018.”
Minister Harris added that a 10-year cross-party plan for the health service is due to be received in April, while work is underway on a bed capacity review “so we can clearly identify the needs in advance of the Government’s mid-term capital review”.
He also referred to a funded plan to hire 1,000 new nurses this year and discussions underway on a new GP contract “so we can do more in primary care including minor surgical procedures”.