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Sustainable solutions to waiting list crisis in public hospitals needs investment – O’Reilly

19 January, 2017 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has today hit out at the Chief Executive of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, Jim O’Sullivan, who tried to justify the use of the private sector in dealing with waiting lists by criticising the sustainability of the public hospitals. She said that the public hospitals could only come up with sustainable solutions if they were adequately funded, which has not happened to date.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“Today, the Chief Executive of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, Jim O’Sullivan, was quoted as saying that ‘if public hospitals came up with solutions that are sustainable, we would not be ideologically opposed to that option’.

“It is incredible that the private sector is considered by this Government the most sustainable way of reducing waiting lists, when it is the legacy of underinvestment in the public sector that has led to chronic waiting lists and the resurgence of the NTPF.

“He is also quoted as noting that the private sector is the most ‘efficient and clinically effective way of having patients seen quickly’, yet there is no regard to the fact that while it is the vehicle to get rid of the immediate backlog, using elective capacity within the private system on an ongoing basis will not build up the public hospital system to deliver that care.

“The use of the private sector may be beneficial if someone has been waiting for a very long time but it does nothing to solve the long waits within the system. We have seen it in previous cyclical periods where waiting lists grow and the pressures are then alleviated by the NTPF. 

“We in Sinn Féin are diametrically opposed to over reliance on the NTPF to reduce waiting lists. The solution to this crisis in public health care is investment in the public system. The real solution to the crisis lies in recruitment and retention of staff, the reopening of beds, and ongoing dialogue with frontline staff and unions.

“It is clear that the school of thought that the private sector is the solution to this deepening problem has re-emerged, however, outsourcing of the problem is not a long term solution and privatising more healthcare will simply not work. We see in many cases that privatisation is justified on the basis that it takes pressure off the public health system. 

“As the Government continuously build up and fund private health care, they are systematically undermining the public system. But if you want to take the pressure off the public health system, invest in it. This is the critical issue that Mr O’Sullivan seems to have forgotten and it is only through investment and an integrated waiting lists system, as proposed by Sinn Féin, that we will make the public service sustainable.” 

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