Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Hospital Waiting List.

9.

asked the Minister for Health the steps which have been taken to reduce the waiting list of 1,000 children for ear, nose and throat operations at Temple Street Hospital, Dublin 1, and Crumlin Children's Hospital, Dublin 12, and to reduce the two and a half year waiting period for such operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I am satisfied that there are no serious problems with the ear, nose and throat services at Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin. The problems which do exist in this speciality at the Children's Hospital, Temple Street are currently being addressed by the hospital authorities with a view to resolving them as soon as possible.

How does the Minister come to the conclusion that at least 250 young patients — on his own information imparted to this House in the last session — waiting at Crumlin Hospital for ear, nose and throat operations does not represent a serious problem? Is he aware that a person waiting for an operation may be on the waiting list for two and a half years, and where a hearing impediment is concerned, that can have a serious impact on the development of a child or young person. Being conscious of those problems, what steps has the Minister taken, as opposed to seeking to push the responsibility down the line, because clearly the problems are far greater than any one hospital or health board could deal with themselves?

In regard to Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin the position is not that there is a waiting time of two and a half years; the position is that the number of children on the waiting list is approximately 245. The average time on the waiting list is six months. The number of operation sessions per week is three and the number of operations per week is 30. The number of out-patient sessions per week is three and the number of consultants who are working the ear, nose and throat department in Crumlin is two.

The Minister has said that, in relation to Temple Street, the hospital authorities are taking steps to see how the problem can be resolved. There are 780 children waiting for ear, nose and throat operations in Temple Street Hospital. Is the Minister providing additional resources to the hospital to resolve this problem and to reduce the two and a half year waiting list? Would he indicate how quickly he foresees this waiting list being eliminated?

The position in Temple Street Hospital is that the management appear to have ear, nose and throat operations as a low priority and do not reserve beds for ear, nose and throat patients. It is against that background that we are negotiating with them to ensure that beds are provided for ear, nose and throat treatment to relieve the backlog.

Is the Minister providing additional finance?

Would the Minister admit that within the category of ear, nose and throat waiting lists there is a serious problem where consultants have expressed alarm that permanent hearing damage might be caused to children's ears if grommets are not provided in time? Secondly, given the ear, nose and throat waiting list in Ardkeen, Cork and Dublin, would he consider sanctioning more ear, nose and throat consultant posts through Comhairle na nOspidéal?

As I dealt with Temple Street, the situation is satisfactory in Crumlin because the figures I have quoted are not the same as those produced by Deputy McCartan. I accept that the situation in Temple Street Hospital is not as we would like it but, nevertheless — and it is important to point this out — there were 1,044 admissions to Temple Street Hospital last year, and that does not include the day cases. At present we are looking at the provision of services in Temple Street Hospital for the current year to ensure that there will be an increase in the number of cases who are attended to. They have two consultant ear, nose and throat surgeons, and that should be sufficient for their needs.

A final supplementary from Deputy McCartan.

The information would seem to indicate that, irrespective of what is going on at Crumlin Hospital, no inroad is being made on the waiting list. The Minister informed the House that there were approximately 250 people on the waiting list at the close of 1988. He told us that while there are 30 operations per week, there are now 245 people on the waiting list. Is it not clear that some firm positive action must be taken by him and his Department to increase the number of operations being performed in that hospital so that there is no undue delay?

I do not accept the Deputy's argument. They are not the same 245 people who are on the waiting list. If ear, nose and throat surgery is attended to within six months, that is a reasonable time having regard to all the factors involved. Many of the cases would involve tonsils and adenoids. What is important is to ensure that patients are admitted on the basis of need, and that is a matter for the consultants.

Question No. 10 please.

Deputy De Rossa rose.

When does the Minister expect that the waiting list will be reduced from two and a half years?

Let the Chair be obeyed. Question No. 10 please.