Dáil Éireann - Volume 550 - 21 March, 2002

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

  123. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the hospital waiting lists as at 31 December 2001 in respect of each hospital and each speciality at each hospital; the number of people waiting in excess of six months and 12 [1712] months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9647/02]

  124. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting times applicable to each speciality by hospital in respect of the hospital waiting list figures for 31 December 2001. [9648/02]

  Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 124 together.

  The hospital in-patient waiting times and the numbers on waiting lists as at 31 December 2001, in the format collected by my Department, are being communicated separately to the Deputy.

  The number of people on public hospital waiting lists in December 2001, the latest date for which figures are available, was 26,126. This figure represents a decrease of 1,731 or 6% on the comparable figure for December 2000. The number of adults waiting more than 12 months for treatment in the target specialties has fallen by 14% over the period December 2000 to December 2001. The number of children waiting for more than six months for treatment in the target specialties has fallen by 3% over the same period.

  The new health strategy which I launched recently, will provide a framework for the reform of the acute hospital system and improved access for public patients. It includes a plan covering the actions required to address the issue of waiting lists and particularly waiting times. The target set out in the strategy is that by the end of 2004 no public patient will wait longer than three months for treatment. A new dedicated treatment purchase fund will be used for the purpose of purchasing treatments for public patients, either from private hospitals in Ireland or, if necessary, from abroad.

  The single most important limiting factor for admission to hospital is bed availability. In this context a comprehensive review of bed capacity needs has been conducted in both the acute and non-acute sectors. I recently announced the commissioning of an additional 709 acute beds in public hospitals at a cost of €65 million. This is the first phase of the provision of an additional 3,000 acute beds over the period to 2011, as announced in the health strategy.

  The strategy outlines further measures which are designed to address the issues of capacity and efficiency in the delivery of services. A strategic partnership will be developed with the private sector in providing services for public patients and a national hospitals' agency will be set up to plan the configuration of hospital services. I am confident that these measures will result in a more accessible and equitable acute hospital system for public patients.