Policy Forum for Ireland debates Sláintecare implementation and addressing waiting lists

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Tony Canavan
Tony Canavan

Mr. Tony Canavan, HMI President and CEO, Saolta Officer Group spoke on “Building on work in the short-term Waiting List Action Plan, identifying areas in most need, and providing the funding and support required to stabilise waiting lists,” at the Policy Forum for Ireland keynote seminar on “Next steps for Sláintecare implementation and addressing waiting lists,” on November 24.

He said Sláintecare set out very ambitious aims in terms of access to elective care in our hospitals, suggesting that the maximum wait time for patients to access elective inpatient or day care should be measured in weeks and access to diagnostics measured in days, 

“ The current reality for hospitals across the country and for the Saolta Group is that we are a very long way off these targets. The Saolta Service Plan for 2022 reflects more modest access targets that are in keeping with the National HSE targets, are more realistic for where we are at now, particularly post Covid. Working to these targets will set us up well for further progress in 2023 and get us back on a pathway towards the Sláintecare targets.

  •  “Our targets for 2022 are that:
  • 98% of Inpatients and Day case patients would be within a 12 month wait time by the end of 2022.
  • 98% of Outpatients would be within an 18 month wait time by the end of 2022.
  • 100% of Patients waiting for a Scope would be within a 12 month wait time.

“While we will fall short of these aims by year end we will have made very significant progress against them. For example the Saolta Group is currently around 97% in respect of the target for Scopes. This progress has been achieved in two key ways. Firstly, more patients have been seen through various waiting list initiatives including outsourcing to private hospitals, but also insourcing within our own facilities. We have also made progress by improved waiting list management. Waiting list management has focussed on a number of areas including chronological scheduling and new to review ratios for Outpatient referrals. A more proactive and intensive approach to waiting list validation has also resulted in significant reductions in the numbers of patients waiting.

“While meaningful progress has been made, we won’t progress towards the Sláintecare aims unless we address the fundamentals. For the Saolta Group, these fundamentals include Capacity, primarily bed capacity and the staff to care for patients in these beds. We must also continue the development of enhanced community care programmes such as integrated care of older people and Chronic disease management programmes in areas such as cardiology, respiratory medicine and endocrinology. We need to continue the shift of Care to more appropriate settings such that hospital settings are increasingly occupied by patients whose care couldn’t or shouldn’t be provided elsewhere.”