PHA calls for Hospital Waiting List Summit

PHA calls for Hospital Waiting List Summit – Minister Harris must disrupt Waiting List Apathy – End Groundhog Day for Waiting Patients – Crisis in Danger of Becoming Normalised 


Statement by Simon Nugent, Chief Executive of the Private Hospitals Association


Chief Executive of the PHA, Simon Nugent says it’s like a chronic Groundhog Day for hundreds of thousands of patients and their families who every month are being told that their wait must go on:  “The figures are an indictment of the Government promise to cut waiting lists in 2017. It is astounding that almost one in seven people in Ireland today languish on some form of public waiting list while capacity exists in private hospitals around the country. We are currently at an all-time high with almost 692,000 patients waiting for treatment or review in our public hospitals. The failure to convincingly tackle the problem to date also means this crisis is in danger of becoming normalised in the eyes of those tasked to deal with it.


The HSE is also failing to deliver on its own mission to provide the people of Ireland with access to safe, compassionate and quality care when they need it. It is now time for Minister Harris to disrupt the apathy that has crept into the system by calling a summit meeting of all the key stakeholders, out of which should come a waiting list action plan working to dedicated reduction targets to be achieved within specified timeframes. The Private Hospitals Associations stands ready to extend theatre opening hours, take on more skilled staff and work through the lists at speed. The Minister has already recognised that the capacity to treat non-emergency patients does not exist.  His solution seems to be to build 3 new dedicated elective hospitals – but what are patients to do in the 10 years before that happens? That’s precisely what this summit should address.”   


Mr Nugent believes better partnering of public and private hospitals could make much faster headway for the tens of thousands of patients waiting on procedures: “Private Hospitals have the capacity to reduce the numbers awaiting inpatient and day case procedures by 50% within a year.  We could make an even bigger impact on the endoscopy list and also help with the outpatients waiting lists if the HSE wished to make use of our state of the art diagnostic equipment. Mr Nugent is calling on the HSE to acknowledge the available capacity within the country\’s private hospital network as a ready-made solution to this protracted and growing problem. “Not only do patients suffer but as the system buries its head in the sand, it incurs much greater costs down the line from the delay. Early treatment means more straightforward and cheaper treatment as well as greatly reducing the chronic suffering of the patient.  


Increased co-operation and partnerships with private hospitals to address waiting lists and the allocation of more funds to the National Treatment Patient Fund (NTPF) would address the current deficits in public capacity. The €5 million so far spent on reducing waiting lists is a drop in the ocean compared to the €5 billion spent on HSE hospitals every year. We need to increase funding immediately to the NTPF as one of the key steps in achieving a real drop in these lists. While the €50M previously committed to the NTPF for 2018 will undoubtedly facilitate some progress, the PHA believes that a considerable greater spend will be required over the next couple of years to break the cycle. 


Mr Nugent welcomed the recent indication from the Minister that he would look to implement the recommendation of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on The Future of Healthcare  through the phased elimination of private healthcare in the public system: “Government can  free up capacity in public hospitals by instructing managers to route insured patients directly to private hospitals rather than continuously admitting them into the public system and further clogging up the system for public patients.”