Brady criticizes Stephen Donnelly over alleged failure to address waiting lists

long corridor in hospital with surgical beds.

Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady has criticized Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly over what he calls his ‘failure’ to adequately address the overwhelming numbers of patients on waiting lists across the state.

He claims that the Minister’s plan to tackle the problem over the last year has resulted in very minor reductions. Which in real terms amount to a reduction of just 3%, which is well short – two-thirds below the 10% target.

Brady said: “There are 470,000 people still waiting longer than the Sláintecare targets. This is unacceptable. Hospitals remain overcrowded, and waiting lists remain stagnant. The government needs to invest in Health.

We need significant investment I hospital infrastructure, such as beds, elective centres, and diagnostic capacity, as well as in primary care and community services, such as general practice. 

“The Minster for Health’s waiting list action plan for 2023 fell far short of target. The number of patients actively waiting for an appointment fell by only a third of the targeted 10% reduction, which was a modest target. The overall number of patients on lists remained stagnant, and there are still 470,000 people waiting longer than the Sláintecare recommended maximum wait times. 

“The health service does not have the necessary infrastructure to tackle the twin crises of overcrowded emergency departments and long waiting lists. There was always going to be a reduction in waiting lists as we exited the pandemic and operational capacity returned to normal levels, but the infrastructure investments to maximise this effect were not made. Hospitals are short 1000 beds and lacking protected capacity for planned procedures, which leads to massive cancellations.

“The Government has not provided new capital funding in 2024 for the health service to build the 1500 beds that are needed in the next three years and has been dragging its feet on elective centres.

“The HSE’s is being further challenged by the recruitment embargo introduced at the end of 2023, and the very low recruitment limit which has been set for 2024. This limit will see the HSE recruit net additional workers at just one-third of the rate it was able to over the last three years.

Primary and community care need to be expanded to help take some of the pressure off hospitals. GPs are stretched, out of hours services are severely challenged, and the HSE is not funded to deliver enough home and community care services to keep older people and people with chronic diseases from needing to go to hospital.

“There is no evidence of strategic workforce planning to enhance the pipeline of graduates, and the housing crisis is also driving young graduates to search for better opportunity abroad. It is reducing the attractiveness of the HSE as a place to work and Ireland as a place to live. 

The answers to the problems in the health service are available.  Sinn Féin laid this out in our Alternative Budget for 2024 when we proposed a €698 million investment in services and an additional €207 million investment in capital projects. But without this investment and ambitious infrastructure, it will be a lost year of squandered opportunity.

The people of Wicklow deserve better from Minister Donnelly.

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