AS waiting lists of people needing diagnosis and treatment through the public health system have risen to further shamefully high levels – affecting some 520,000 people – Minister for Health Simon Harris has come with can only be described as a set of stopgap measures rather than a real plan to stop the rot. His set of five specific actions to try to reduce the length of time people are on these waiting lists are more like paying lip service to the problem and – at best – will only nibble around the edges and maybe massage the figures to make them look a little bit better.
These figures represent more than half a million people who need further diagnosis and possible treatment and, by the time they eventually get it, it may be too late for some of them. Yet, if they had private health insurance cover, they would have no problem accessing their medical requirements.
The gap in our two-tier health sector between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ continues to widen and this largely is as a result of the lessening of the government’s ambition when it comes to tackling the waiting lists: The last government, on taking office in 2011, pledged that by September of the following year, nobody would have to wait more than nine months, this then became 15 months and now Minister Harris’s ambition is to halve the number of adults waiting more than 18 months for inpatient treatment by the end of this year.
He is reviving the Special Delivery Unit – that didn’t deliver during the lifetime of the last government – to oversee his waiting lists action plan. In announcing it, he bizarrely compared it to the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing & Homelessness, launched last month by his namesake, Minister Simon Coveney; there is no comparison as they operate on totally different scales with the level of ambition in Simon Harris’s plans down at basement level.
The public should be getting a much more comprehensive, properly-funded plan than these five stopgap actions that are more of an insult to people on the waiting lists.