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'Serious allegations' of rigged waiting lists to be pursued by Department of Health

The HSE said it had no knowledge of the memo allegedly calling on employees to manipulate the figures.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE DEPARTMENT OF Health has said this afternoon it will investigate reports of top staff at the HSE ‘rigging waiting lists’.

A report in today’s Sunday Business Post claimed that a confidential memo sent to staff in one HSE region said that waiting lists were to be “manipulated” to meet targets.

Methods invoked allegedly included prioritising patients who were about to become long-term waiters, and removing patients from lists if they required further tests, giving them two weeks to respond to an appointment, or by sending them to a private doctor.

In a statement this afternoon, the HSE said it had no knowledge of the memo, but that should it be confirmed to be genuine, “appropriate disciplinary action against managers” will be taken if they urged employees to manipulate figures.

It conceded that the practice of outsourcing some patients waiting for an outpatient appointment to a private provider did occur in some instances, “but has now ceased”, and that in some cases patients are left off a waiting list until tests confirm that procedures are necessary.

“The HSE continues to tackle the current waiting lists and is pursuing further opportunities for improvement, which are currently in the implementation phase,” the statement continued.

This includes reducing the number of patients who do not turn up for their appointment, and increasing the number of new patients in the clinic rather than just reviewing previous attenders who are better returned to their GP.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said these were “serious allegations”.

“The Department will be pursuing the matter further with [the HSE] during the week in the context of ongoing discussions regarding waiting lists.”

Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher called for the issue to be debated in the Dáil this week.

Originally published 4.47pm

Read: HSE ‘needs to address’ the fact medical card reviews made people afraid >

Varadkar: ‘I’ll give my opinion as a doctor and young man at a later stage’ >

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Nicky Ryan

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