14/07/2015

Health Minister Accused Of 'Manipulating' Hospital Waiting Times

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has been accused of trying to manipulate hospital waiting lists "to disguise the true scale of the crisis", Fianna Fáil's health spokesperson, Thomas Byrne, has said.

Senator Byrne made the comments following newspaper reports that tens of thousands of patients have been moved off waiting lists without having seen a doctor.

"Once again we see the Health Minister going to great lengths to cover up the scandal of overcrowding and exorbitant waiting lists that have become a common feature of our health service," Senator Byrne said.

"Minister Varadkar has already moved the goalposts on waiting times, extending his targets from 15 months to 18 months, and now it appears he's attempting to further massage the figures by moving patients off these waiting lists before they have even seen a doctor.

"The Minister's determination to spin his way out of this crisis appears to know no bounds. Not content with changing targets to suit his PR strategy, he has now invented a new system to alter the figures. 

"Instead of reinstating the National Treatment Purchase Fund to cut the chronic waiting lists, Minister Varadkar announced funding for extra clinics as well as a plan to outsource some of the work to the private sector.

"The tenders for these additional clinics and private sector agreements have yet to be finalised but miraculously tens of thousands of patients have disappeared from the waiting lists.  None of them having seen a doctor or had an appointment because these clinics are not even in operation.

"If the Minister spent more time examining tangible measures to tackle this crisis instead of devising creative initiatives to fiddle the figures, we may have seen some improvement in the situation. 

"However, it appears as if Minister Varadkar is continuing down the route of his predecessor Minister Reilly and is allowing the figures to spiral out of control."

(MH/JP)

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