The Minister’s own Sláintecare progress report revealed key areas of the strategy are nowhere near implementation

The new Waiting List Action Plan will not work as it fails to address structural issues within the health service, according to Social Democrats Health Spokesperson Róisín Shortall.

“The €350 million investment in tackling waiting lists, that was announced today, is not new money. It was announced during the budget. In fact, there is nothing new about this plan at all.

“Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has merely dusted off previous plans, that failed to address the waiting list crisis, and rebranded them as something new. Funnelling money into a broken system may reduce waiting lists slightly in the short term, but it will do nothing to address endemic structural problems in the health service that are causing a crisis of delayed care for hundreds and thousands of people. Unless there is progress on implementing Sláintecare, and agreement on a new consultant contract, record-high waiting lists will persist.

“Last week, the Minister’s own Sláintecare progress report revealed key areas of the strategy are nowhere near implementation. Progress on implementing a multi-annual waiting list reduction plan; removing private care from public hospitals and implementing the Sláintecare consultant contract were all rated as having “significant challenges”. Meanwhile, the crucial development of regional health areas was rated as having “minor challenges” – despite the fact no discernible progress has been made.

“We know that we have a chronic shortage of consultants in the Irish health service providing care. There are currently more than 700 consultant posts which are either vacant on a temporary or permanent basis. This will remain the case for the foreseeable future unless a new consultant contract is agreed. The Senior Counsel who had been chairing negotiations on the contract stepped down last month when she was appointed a High Court judge. I asked the Health Minister this week when she was likely to be replaced and he was unable to provide an answer.

“Recycling previous plans, which failed to address the waiting list crisis, suggests the Health Minister is bereft of ideas and bereft of a credible plan. Unless we see swift and significant progress in the implementation of Sláintecare, the waiting list crisis will inevitably deepen.”

25 February, 2022


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