It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted in the last twenty months as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While significant progress was made in reducing waiting times from June 2020 onwards, the surge in Covid-19 cases in the first quarter of 2021 and the associated curtailment of acute hospital services, coupled with the ransomware attack of May 2021, has impacted waiting times.
The current surge in Covid-19 cases has put increasing pressures on hospitals and ICUs. As part of the response to this the HSE advised all Hospital Groups on 18th November, to take a series of immediate actions which include a 14 day period of prioritising unscheduled care, COVID care and time sensitive work in particular in Model 4 hospitals. The situation is to be reviewed after that period.
On the 7th October I published the Acute Waiting List Action Plan. This plan, to run until December 2021, has a series of targeted measures that are designed to address the growth in waiting lists caused by Covid-19 and the cyber-attack. In addition, my Department, the HSE and the NTPF are also working on a Multi Annual Waiting List Plan to bring waiting lists in line with Sláintecare targets over the coming years. This process will be overseen by a Ministerial Taskforce, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and includes representatives from the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund. The plan will be informed by the lessons learned from the successful Vaccine Taskforce.
For 2022 an additional allocation of €250 million, comprised of €200 million to the HSE and €50 million to the National Treatment Purchase Fund has been provided in respect of work to reduce hospital and community waiting lists. The €250 million will be used to fund additional activity in both the public and private sectors. The €50 million additional funding provided to the NTPF brings its total allocation for 2022 to €150 million, and as a consequence there will be a budget of €350 million available to support vital initiatives to improve access to acute hospitals and community health services.
Additionally, the NTPF have advised my department that they have also approved an outpatient orthopaedics initiative for funding at Cavan General Hospital, which will facilitate treatment for 491 patients on orthopaedics waiting lists.