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Varadkar: Clearly if Mr Kelleher was minister, things would be much worse

Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher criticised the Health Minister’s approach to HSE waiting lists, with 41,600 people waiting more than a year for an outpatient appointment.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE CLAWS WERE out today as Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher hit out at the Health Minister over HSE waiting lists – and Minister Varadkar hit back.

Yesterday, the HSE’s Performance Report for August was published and showed that more than 41,600 patients had been waiting over a year for an outpatient appointment – up considerably from 9,604 in January.

Varadkar said new initiatives and resources provided for 2012 will not show up in performance reports until the middle of next year so numbers are “likely to get worse over the next few months before they get better”.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on health, Billy Kelleher slammed the minister’s comments, saying he was “appalled” at his attitude. He claimed Varadkar had “resigned himself to the fact” that the numbers are likely to get worse over the next few months.

He is effectively condemning thousands of patients to extended hospital waiting times, without putting any plan in place to remedy the crisis.

One of the biggest challenges

In a statement to TheJournal.ie today, the minister pulled no punches.

The Government has allocated more than €300 million for health next year, with another €330 million coming from other sources. The alternative Fianna Fáil budget provides just €96 million more for 2015. Clearly if Mr Kelleher was minister, things would be much worse.

Varadkar said waiting lists are one of the biggest challenges for the health system right now and even though there has been an increase in number being seen at outpatient clinics, it hasn’t been enough to deal with the rising demand.

“That’s why I have been discussing a range of solutions with the HSE,” he commented.

“Some measures are straightforward, like texting people seven days before a procedure to remind them to turn up, or promoting day surgery, so that patients do not have to spend a night in hospital,” he explained.

“We also want to see more flexible use made of theatre capacity, a centralised booking system for procedures, increasing the number of new patient consultations and reducing the number of unnecessary returns and reviews.”

Read: Here’s what Leo Varadkar thinks has changed in health since he ‘wore a white coat’>

Read: ‘Serious allegations’ of rigged waiting lists to be pursued by Department of Health>

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