THE HEALTH MINISTER James Reilly has described as “utterly unacceptable” HSE figures which show that almost 178,000 people in Ireland are on waiting lists to see specialists at an outpatient clinic.
The information, which has been collated for the first time, shows that more than 300 patients have been waiting for over four years to be seen by a consultant after being referred by their GP.
Some 167,825 patients are still waiting to be seen by a specialist since January 2010, and a further 10,129 people are waiting since being referred before January 2011, according to the figures.
The Minister for Health James Reilly has described the length of time that public patients are being forced to wait to see a specialist as “utterly unacceptable”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme today, Reilly said the data was “proof positive” that a major problem had lain submerged in the HSE for years.
Reilly said the root of the problem was that well-qualified and experienced GPs who recognised a problem in a public patient were obliged to refer them to a consultant who could then “rubber-stamp it”.
He vowed to make it “a priority” to ensure that those who have been waiting the longest would receive care as quickly as possible.
The Minister added that he wished to roll out the new electronic referral system, currently used for cancer patients only, across the entire system.
List not complete
The HSE list is not yet complete – as not all hospitals in the country have submitted waiting list figures to date, including large hospitals like St Vincent’s in Dublin, University Hospital Galway and Limerick’s Mid-West Regional Hospital.
Reilly admitted that the list, which involved 30 hospitals in Ireland, was incomplete but said that “in a couple of months it will be and we can then set realistic targets for everyone.”
Reilly said the list exposed “the heart of what is wrong with the two-tier system” and underlined the need to bring in universal health insurance.
The HSE has warned that, as outpatient waiting list data is not complete at this stage, the actual total number waiting could exceed 200,000.