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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 24 Apr 1991

Vol. 407 No. 4

Written Answers. - Elective Surgery Waiting Lists.

Richard Bruton


101 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health the number of people currently on the public waiting lists for each major area of elective surgery such as hip replacements, tonsil removal, neurosurgery operations, heart by-pass and cataracts; and the current rate of caseloads being handled.

Waiting lists are a feature of all health systems throughout the world and this will continue given the infinite demands which will be made on finite resources. The success of new techniques and forms of treatment which has improved the quality of life for many patients has, however, led to increasing demands being placed on the health services with a consequent effect on waiting lists and waiting times. I have placed great emphasis on tackling waiting lists over the past few years.

Certain areas were, however, identified as requiring special attention. The Deputy will be aware of my concern about the problems which had arisen in the provision of cardiac surgery, ear, nose and throat procedures, cataract and hip replacement operations and will also be aware that additional funds were made available in 1989 and 1990 to reduce waiting times in these areas. The effects of the additional funding were clearly seen towards the end of 1989 and throughout 1990.

The latest information available to my Department regarding waiting lists for these procedures is as follows:


Waiting List

Throughput in 1990


Hip replacement operations






Not yet available


Cataract operations


4,210 (approx.)


Heart bypass surgery


*650 (approx.)





The waiting list figures are approximate.
*1990 throughput was lower than 1989 because of the change in medical practice at the Mater Hospital. Activity there has now been restored to 1989 levels i.e. a target for annual activity of 900 procedures.
My Department are in active consultation with health agencies regarding their service plans and priorities for 1991. As these discussions have not yet been finalised, I am not in a position to indicate the exact projected throughput of patients this year in the areas mentioned by the Deputy. I would point out, however, that waiting lists for hip replacement operations have decreased by 16 per cent since April 1990. Waiting lists for ear, nose and throat surgery generally have decreased by over 9 per cent. Waiting lists for cataract operations have decreased by more than 12 per cent since 1989. With regard to cardiac surgery, special funds were provided for the provision of ten additional cardiac beds at the Mater Hospital, Dublin which, I have been informed by the hospital, came into operation on 2 April 1991.
Two additional posts of consultant neurosurgeon for Beaumont Hospital have been advertised recently. The appointment of these consultants will enable the hospital to further increase its throughput of patients. I am confident that the progress which is being achieved in these areas will be continued in 1991.