Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

83 Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will provide details of the hospital waiting lists per speciality and hospital as at 31 December 1998; the precise action which he has taken on foot of the expert group's report on the waiting list initiative; the outcome of this action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1948/99]

Joe Higgins

Question:

94 Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for Health and Children the funds, if any, he has set aside for the implementation of the medium term recommendations for 1999 arising from the report of the review group of the waiting list initiative. [1871/99]

Liz McManus

Question:

100 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people on hospital waiting lists at the latest date for which figures are available; the corresponding figures for the same date in 1998 and on 1 July 1997; the steps, if any, being taken to reduce waiting lists and deal with the crisis in hospitals having regard to the period that people are having to spend on trolleys awaiting treatment in a number of hospitals; if, in particular, his attention has been drawn to reports that an elderly man spent 56 hours on a trolley awaiting admission to Beaumont Hospital; his views on claims by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association that lives could be at risk from the crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1846/99]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

126 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will set targets for reducing hospital waiting lists in order that adults will not have to wait longer than 12 months and children no longer than six months as he has already indicated would be desirable; the estimated cost implications of achieving such targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1919/99]

Derek McDowell

Question:

138 Mr. McDowell asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will respond to recent reports on the way in which waiting lists are to be complied; the plans, if any, he has to change procedures in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1944/99]

Proinsias De Rossa

Question:

145 Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some consultants are refusing to accept patients on to their waiting lists and some people in need of treatment are effectively having to go on to a waiting list in order to go on another waiting list for hospital treatment; the action, if any, he will take to deal with this development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1848/99]

Joe Higgins

Question:

146 Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for Health and Children the special initiatives, if any, he is taking to resolve the crisis of waiting lists in hospital. [1870/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83, 94, 100, 126, 138, 145 and 146 together.

The figures requested by the Deputies are set out in the tables which will be circulated to them. They relate to 30 September 1998, the latest period for which information is available, and to 30 September and 30 June 1997.

I have recently taken a range of significant initiatives to address the issue of waiting lists and waiting times for public in-patients. These include the provision of £20 million for the treatment of patients on waiting lists. This represents an increase of two-thirds over the 1998 figure and is 2.5 times higher than the amount allocated by the previous Government for waiting lists in 1997; the provision of £9 million for services for older people. This will help to free up acute hospital beds, some of which are occupied at present by patients who cannot be accommodated in sub-acute or rehabilitation facilities; the provision of £2 million to selected accident and emergency services. This will again ensure that acute facilities are more easily available for elective work, including treatments for those on waiting lists and the issuing of a new policy circular and guidelines to all relevant agencies regarding the way in which the waiting list initiative should be operated in future.

The policy circular and guidelines, issued by my Department on 7 January 1999, outline revised and updated procedures in relation to improving the liaison and communication arrangements between acute hospitals and general practitioners; ensuring a more effective management of waiting lists at acute hospital level through the appointment of an implementation group and a patient co-ordinator/bed manager in each hospital; improved management of out-patient waiting lists and clarifying the criteria for inclusion on a public in-patient waiting list.

The policy circular reiterates the targets of treating adults in target specialities within 12 months and of treating children in target specialties within six months. It clarifies the criteria for including patients on a public waiting list but, contrary to some recent reports, it makes no substantive changes to these criteria.

Hospital consultants must manage their in-patient and out-patient lists in accordance with the recent policy circular and guidelines. It is a matter for each consultant to assess patients on their out-patient waiting lists and to determine whether they require treatment on an in-patient basis. I am not aware of any consultants adopting a prac tice of refusing to accept patients on their waiting lists.
In relation to placing patients on trolleys, I can assure the Deputy that every effort is made to keep this practice to a minimum. Priority is accorded to those patients most in need of immediate medical attention, but because of the unpredictable nature of hospital workloads it can happen that patients must be placed in temporary accommodation pending the availability of more appropriate beds. I can assure the Deputy that every effort is made to make patients as comfortable as possible while they are awaiting a hospital bed.
I am confident that the measures which I have outlined above under the waiting list initiative will help to reduce waiting times and free up appropriate facilities for patients.