Seven years ago, Fine Gael promised universal access to health services for all and the end of long waiting times and lists. Seven years on, we have record levels of waiting times and waiting lists. Some 718,000 people, an extraordinary number, are on hospital waiting lists as of May of this year. Some 512,000 of these are on an outpatient waiting list, a record high which means that many will wait for years for an operation or procedure. For example, 66,768 people are waiting for an ear, nose and throat, ENT, consultant, with nearly 30,000 of those waiting more than a year and 17,000 waiting more than 18 months for access to ENT services. Some 62,000 people are on outpatient waiting list to see an orthopaedic consultant. Some 20,000 have been waiting more than a year and 11,000 more than 18 months. Some 41,000 are on the ophthalmology list, 41,000 for dermatology, and 30,000 are on a waiting list to see a gynaecology consultant. Some 20,000 are on a cardiology list, 20,000 are on a neurology list, and so on. The 18 month waiting list is getting longer despite the fact that the now Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, brought that in. He widened the goalposts in a cynical move at the time. Even the target to eradicate that has been missed.
Children are hardest hit, waiting far too long for far too many operations, outpatient appointments, and access to mental healthcare. Child and adolescent waiting lists are unacceptable, and speech and language, occupational therapy and physiotherapy all have scandalous waiting lists. Some 50,000 children are waiting for an outpatient consultation and appointment. Some 10,000 children have been waiting more than 18 months to see a consultant. In excess of 4,500 children are waiting for an assessment of need under the Disability Act. Some 2,691 are on children and adolescent mental health waiting lists, with close to 400 waiting more than a year. That is appalling. An extraordinary figure of 6,000 have been waiting for a primary care psychological appointment. The elderly are no better, with 6,500 waiting for home care and help access.
In May 2017, the Sláintecare programme was launched with great fanfare. An executive director was to be appointed, yet 14 months on, nothing has happened with regard to that. No executive director has been appointed. Given those lamentable figures and appalling waiting times for people, why is there inaction and a delay in appointing an executive director to implement the Sláintecare programme? Why has it taken 14 months after the launch of the programme by the Oireachtas and the committee for the Government to do anything about its implementation?