Given the number of patients waiting on in-patient and out-patient waiting lists in Galway-the Minister for Health’s threat to fine the public hospitals in Galway for failure to deliver on targets is a sick joke.
As an elected City Councillor I have been a member of the Regional Health Forum Committee since it was set up in 2006 and there are 40 Councillors from all over the Western region on the committee.
The Forum as such has no power but each Councillor is entitled to table four written questions (it used to be two) and one motion at each bi-monthly meeting. In that period of time I have tabled well over 100 questions and received written replies to same.
The picture that emerges from the combined information gathered is that the public hospital system is lurching from crisis to crisis due to inadequate funding and staffing and the continuous development of hospital buildings on a site that is completely unsuitable while 150 acres remain largely unused on the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital.
Moreover the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) introduced by the FF/PD in 2002 and the Special Delivery Unit (SDU) introduced by this government in 2011 in order to tackle waiting lists have spectacularly failed given the existing waiting lists (see press release below).
Further under these initiatives I have watched public monies going into and still going into the private hospital system in Galway and throughout the country enabling them to make substantial profits while the public waiting lists grow longer.
Furthermore the government will now have to pay for treatment for anyone on a waiting list who manages to source treatment in any country in the EU.
So in addition to the serious fragmentation of health services there is no savings whatsoever of public monies.
It is past time to see sense and commit to putting public monies into the public health system in our own city and country.
Press Statement: 20th October 2015
Councillor Catherine Connolly and member of the Regional Health Forum said the number on out-patient and in-patient waiting lists including patients waiting for an MRI remains scandalously high.
At the last meeting of the Regional Health Forum it was confirmed that there are three different waiting lists for an MRI i.e Priority 1, 2 and 3.
On the priority No 1 list there are 90 patients waiting for up to three months while on the Priority 2 list there are 2204 patients waiting up to two years and more and on the Priority 3 list there are 634 and waiting for an even longer period of time.
The priority two list of 2204 patients waiting for anything up to two years and longer includes patients waiting for serious spinal surgery who can only function with the use of crutches and pain relief and patients suffering the most serious pain while waiting for the one MRI scan that is functioning.
These figures are on top of the number on waiting lists for all medical specialities including Gynaecology, Orthopaedics, Urology etc. The total figure given at a recent Regional Health Forum Meeting was 30,322 patients in total on the out-patient waiting lists in Galway alone with 10,747 on the in-patient lists.
These are waiting lists that have been validated and also lists that remain scandalously high despite the introduction of the National Treatment Purchase Fund in 2002 which was set up specifically to deal with waiting lists and which was followed by the Special Delivery Unit in 2011. Both initiatives have spectacularly failed and only succeeded in channelling money into the private hospital system in Galway and around the country including Sligo, Limerick, Dublin and also private facilities outside of the country.
At the same time, the two public hospitals in Galway remain chronically underfunded and attempting to function with one MRI scan because the HSE West say they have no money to buy another one.
In these circumstances the threat by the Minister of Health to impose a fine on the Galway Hospitals for failure to deliver on targets is nothing but a sick joke.
Moreover under the European Cross Border Health Directive the HSE is obliged to pay for any care/treatment received in another country in the EU by an Irish patient if he/she has been on a waiting list in Ireland and have failed to get the necessary treatment.
So one way or another it is costing and will cost the Government money either by having to pay private hospitals in Ireland and/or hospitals in Europe.
Rather than talking about imposing fines on a public health system that is creaking for want of funding, the Minister for Health and the government should commit to the provision of the necessary employment of skilled staff to provide a first class public health system in our own City and Country.
At the end of the day it will create a much healthier society not to mention a more cost effective health system.