Written Answers - Hospital Waiting Lists.

Tuesday, 22 June 2004

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 587 No. 5

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  93.  Mr. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Health and Children  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   the steps he has taken or proposes to take to address the anomalous situation whereby long hospital waiting lists appear to have become the norm, while at the same time hospital wards remain closed or beds decommissioned due to a lack of adequate resources and staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18463/04]

  203.  Mr. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Health and Children  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   the number of patients awaiting treatment in respect of various surgical procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18637/04]

  205.  Mr. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Health and Children  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   the extent to which he has dealt with hospital waiting lists having particular regard to his promise to eliminate all waiting lists within two years of the life of the present Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18639/04]

  213.  Mr. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Health and Children  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   the steps he proposes to take to ensure that all hospital wards and beds are fully commissioned, available and utilised to the optimum extent in line with public requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18649/04]

  214.  Mr. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Health and Children  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   the reason hospital wards and beds are closed or decommissioned in view of the public demand for services as illustrated by long waiting lists; if he has examined the cause or causes whereby the public cannot gain access to hospital services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18650/04]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  I propose to take Questions Nos. 93, 203, 205, 213 and 214 together.

[1376]Responsibility for the collection and reporting of waiting lists and waiting times now falls within the remit of the national treatment purchase fund, NTPF. This will result in a more accurate and complete picture being available of the numbers waiting and more importantly the length of time they are waiting for their procedures. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the NTPF to respond directly to the Deputy regarding the number of patients awaiting treatment for surgical procedures.

With regard to waiting times, the NTPF has reported that 80% of patients now wait less than one year for surgical treatment. The NTPF has also reported that waiting times have fallen significantly in the past year with 37% of patients now waiting between three and six months and 43% waiting between six and 12 months for surgery. This represents a major reduction in the length of time patients have to wait. Patients who have been waiting more than six months for treatment can also contact the NTPF directly or through their general practitioners to arrange treatment.

While the rate of progress in achieving the targets set out in the health strategy has been slower than anticipated, the targets still remain a goal to be achieved and I will continue to keep the focus on reducing waiting lists and waiting times.

It is a feature of all acute hospital systems that some beds are out of use for short periods. These beds are not decommissioned but are temporarily out of use for a variety of reasons such as ward refurbishment, essential ward maintenance, staff leave, seasonal closures and infection control measures. Data collected by my Department show that the total bed days lost due to beds being temporarily out of use in 2003 represents approximately 3% of the overall available acute bed stock.

Increasing the capacity of the acute hospital system continues to be a priority. I have provided additional annual revenue funding of €93 million and capital funding of €25 million to health boards and the Eastern Regional Health Authority to commission 709 extra beds in the acute hospital sector as part of the Government’s commitment under the health strategy to provide an additional 3,000 acute hospital beds over the period to 2011. Some 589 of these beds have been commissioned to date and funding has been made available to health boards and the ERHA to commission the balance of the 709 beds.

My Department will continue to work with health agencies to bring on stream buildings, facilities and equipment which are being provided under the national development plan. The additional revenue required to open these new facilities will have to be considered against the background of available resources and other competing priorities.


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