Recently, Deputy Broughan asked the Minister for Health to report on the number of people on waiting lists to see a consultant neurologist in Beaumont Hospital, with information on the length of time people have been waiting. Deputy Broughan received a direct response from Beaumont Hospital which said that the average waiting time to see a consultant neurologist is 7 months. As of the end of January this year, 422 people had been waiting less than 3 months, 395 had been waiting between 3 to 6 months, 221 had been waiting between 6 to 9 months, and 173 had been waiting 9 to 12 months. Of the 1497 people on waiting lists this year, 286 of those had been waiting for more than a year. 134 had been waiting for between 12 and 15 months, 117 had been waiting for 15 to 18 months, 28 had been waiting for 18 to 21 months, 4 had been waiting for 21 to 24 months and 3 had been waiting for more than 2 years.
Deputy Broughan recently asked the Minister for Health to report on the number of medical consultant posts and nursing posts for which funding was approved in 2016 and 2017 that remain vacant. Fine Gael pays much lip service to the funding it has provided for recruitment in the health service but little about the difficulties in recruiting and retaining health service staff and consultants. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has repeatedly warned us that nurses and nursing graduates look for opportunities overseas because of better pay and conditions.
I am grateful to have an opportunity to speak briefly on this motion. I commend Sinn Féin on its introduction this afternoon. More than 700,000 people are on health waiting lists for treatment and assessment. The figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund for May 2018 represent an increase of 6,200 on the figures for April 2018. There has been a jump of 4,300 to 511,904 in the number of people awaiting initial assessment by a consultant following a referral from a general practitioner. More than 147,000 people have been waiting for more than a year for an outpatient appointment. Almost 80,000 people have been waiting for more than 18 months for such an appointment.
Deputy Broughan has recently been contacted by a number of constituents distressed at the staff shortages in St. Joseph’s Intellectual Disability Service at St. Ita’s Hospital, Portrane, Co. Dublin. Deputy Broughan has been making representations to support these constituents and yesterday received a reply from the HSE following a Parliamentary Question he asked to the Minister for Health. The reply confirmed the “current high levels of nursing staff shortages at St Joseph’s Intellectual Disability Services” and went on to say that a significant recruitment drive is being undertaken to try and attract nursing staff to this facility. Worryingly, the reply states that despite these efforts “the response rate to date in filling these posts has been very low”.
Following the horrific and shocking RTÉ Investigates programme “Living on the List” which aired recently, Deputy Broughan asked a large number of Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris. One of those questions was for the Minister to outline the number of acute hospital beds in 1987, 1997, 2007 and 2017 and to outline the number of consultants or specialist doctors per capita in each of those years also.
Following the recent shocking and appalling RTÉ Investigates Programme ‘Living on the List’, Deputy Broughan asked a large number of Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris. Earlier this week, he received replies to these questions, some of which have been referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) or the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) for reply. One of the PQs that Deputy Broughan received an answer to asked whether the Department of Health and the HSE have estimated the cost of reducing hospital waiting lists below nine weeks, whether the Minister has requested that a review of waiting lists be conducted to ensure that the correct dates are entered into the systems, the Minister’s views on the need for a mother to access information through freedom of information and advocate on her child’s behalf for spinal surgery, and the protections and advocacy available to those persons that may not be able to access such information on their own files with hospitals.
Deputy Tommy Broughan today received a reply from the HSE to a Parliamentary Question he raised recently regarding the number of consultant psychiatrist vacancies within the Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Deputy Broughan has consistently been challenging the Government on inadequacies in our health services, in particular regarding mental health. Recently he has been asking a number of questions around the number of under 18s being treated in adult mental health facilities, the number of age-appropriate beds required to end this practice and the numbers of professionals in the field.
Beaumont Hospital is one of the busiest hospitals in the country and Deputy Broughan has consistently raised the need to properly resource it in Dáil Éireann. Deputy Broughan raises many Parliamentary Questions regarding Beaumont Hospital, including the number of persons on waiting lists, the status of the proposed new (and much needed) Accident and Emergency Department and the number of vacancies at the hospital.
In early November 2015, Deputy Tommy Broughan asked the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, to detail the number of persons on waiting lists for procedures at Beaumont Hospital. At the time, Deputy Broughan received a reply from the RCSI stating that 10,597 persons were on waiting lists, 3,280 of these up to three months, 2,203 from 3 months plus to 6 months, 991 from 6 months plus to 8 months, 1,771 from 8 months plus to 12 months, 1,080 from 12 months plus to 15 months, 773 from 15 months plus to 18 months and 499 for 18 months plus and at the time just 1,030 of these had dates for treatment.
Last night, Beaumont A&E had to close its doors to admissions with patients being directed to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda due to overcrowding and high numbers of patients on trolleys, including two patients in their 90s who had to wait on chairs.