Over 20,000 people are currently awaiting respiratory outpatient appointments with over a quarter of those already waiting more than 18 months at a time when “air quality” are the buzz words being used by Government, Denis Naughten has highlighted.
Figures provided to Denis Naughten by the HSE show that 20,632 adults and children are currently on waiting lists for respiratory appointments and 5,771 of those have been waiting more than 18 months. It was also confirmed to Denis Naughten that the HSE is not using the National Treatment Purchase Fund to address these waiting lists.
“Looking at Galway University Hospital alone, since last October the waiting time for a respiratory appointment has increased from 18 months to a whopping 42 months,” stated Denis Naughten.
“When we are dealing with the effects of long covid why are we seeing huge increases in the waiting time for respiratory outpatient appointments? And why is the health service not using the National Treatment Purchase Fund to address these waiting times?
“When we are talking about air quality and the resulting respiratory problems and the ongoing effects of long covid why are we not getting serious about tackling the problem and using the NTPF to address this waiting list?”
Denis Naughten raised the issue in the Dáil with Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan who admitted he did not know whether the rising numbers awaiting respiratory appointments reflected the impact of long Covid.
Dáil reply below and waiting list figures attached.
For Written Answer on : 10/05/2022
Question Number(s): 720 Question Reference(s): 22730/22
Asked by: Denis Naughten T.D.
To ask the Minister for Health the number of persons on waiting lists for respiratory appointments by hospital; the current length of time that they have been waiting; his plans to tackle respiratory waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
(See attached file: OP_RespiratoryMedicine.xlsx)
It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. While significant work continues to positively impact on waiting times and improve pathways to elective care, acute hospitals have been impacted by operational challenges arising from surges in cases related to the Omicron variants.
The HSE has confirmed to the Department that patient safety remains at the centre of all hospital activity and elective care scheduling. To ensure services are provided in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols.
The Department of Health continues to work with the HSE and the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to identify ways to improve access to care, including through increased use of private hospitals, funding weekend and evening work in public hospitals, funding “see and treat” services, providing virtual clinics, and increasing capacity in the public hospital system.
The 2022 Waiting List Action Plan, which was launched on the 25th of February, allocates €350 million to the HSE and NTPF to reduce waiting lists. Under this plan the Department, HSE, and NTPF will deliver urgent additional capacity for the treatment of patients, as well as investing in longer term reforms to bring sustained reductions in waiting lists.
The plan builds on the successes of the short-term 2021 plan that ran from September to December last year. The 2021 plan was developed by the Department of Health, the HSE and the NTPF and was driven and overseen by a senior governance group co-chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and the CEO of the HSE and met fortnightly.
This rigorous level of governance and scrutiny of waiting lists has continued into this year with the oversight group evolving into the Waiting List Task Force. The Task Force meets regularly to drive progress of the 2022 plan.
This is the first stage of an ambitious multi-annual waiting list programme, which is currently under development in the Department of Health. Between them, these plans will work to support short, medium, and long term initiatives to reduce waiting times and provide the activity needed in years to come.
The NTPF have provided the information in the attached document. This document shows the OPD Respiratory Medicine waiting list by hospital and time-band for March 2022.