Hospital waiting lists have spiralled out of control. We have more than 900,000 people waiting for vital medical care as we speak. I want to focus on just one of the very alarming aspects of this crisis and that is the more than 100,000 children who today go without the treatment they need. I am talking about children in need of a disability diagnosis, an autism assessment or access to mental health services; I am talking about children who desperately need early intervention but yet face a two-year wait and cannot get access to therapies; and I am also talking about children with scoliosis, who lives their days and nights in agony, waiting for a life-changing procedure. There should not be one child or family left in such an awful situation, let alone thousands upon thousands.
Yesterday, we heard what the lack of capacity in our health service actually means for children. Speaking on radio, Dr. Gabrielle Colleran summed up just how dire things have become. She said: "I had another doctor write to me last week saying they have a child with neurological symptoms and the appointment they had been offered was for 2035." That is 14 years away, a wait so long that the child will no longer be a child when the appointment comes around. The human toll of all of this is devastating. I personally know of parents of children who miss school regularly because of chronic pain, children so traumatised by their wait that they are on anti-depressants, and children and parents who see no light at the end of the tunnel. At the root of this, of course, is decades of bad Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael policy - 40 years of pushing private interests, weakening public healthcare, slashing capacity in our hospitals and creating nightmarish working conditions for nurses and doctors. We see this failed agenda again in the problems that have arisen with the delivery of Sláintecare, in the Taoiseach's failure to fill on a permanent basis 720 vital consultant positions and in the fact that so many of our young nurses and midwives do not see their future here. The problem is that the Government is wedded to a two-tier system that has failed people time and again, and that is why we continue to have a system that does not work for everyone. It certainly is not working for those 100,000 children.
Teastaíonn athrú uainn. Tá Rialtas ag teastáil uainn a thógfaidh seirbhís sláinte a oibreoidh do gach duine. Tá gníomh práinneach ag teastáil chun dul i ngleic le líon ollmhór na bpáistí atá ar liostaí feithimh. This has to change. We need a Government that will build a health service that will work for everyone. Urgent action is needed to tackle the colossal number of children on waiting lists. There can be no plámásing or hiding behind alibis of complexity. The Taoiseach's job is to do right by these kids. There are things he could start today that would make a difference. I have two specific asks. Will he commit to filling those 720 consultant positions urgently and on a permanent basis? Will he target that investment to the areas that most affect children, such as orthopaedics, ear, nose and throat medicine, ENT, and neurology? Will he invest to increase dramatically diagnostic capacity to the level required to get children off these waiting lists and into care?