Micheál Martin, who is visiting Donegal today, has warned that the increase in waiting lists at both Letterkenny and Sligo General Hospitals a a sign “of a national crisis” in our health care. His concerns were echoed by local TDs Pearse Doherty and Thomas Pringle.
The leader of Fianna Fáil and a former Minister of Health told the Donegal Democrat: “The situation at Sligo General Hospital and Letterkenny General Hospital is indicative of a national crisis that has erupted in our health services over the past year.
“Since the Government scrapped the National Treatment Purchase Fund last year, hospital waiting lists nationally have soared by 47 per cent, while number are up by 72 per cent in Letterkenny and 54 percent in Sligo.
“This surge in waiting lists over a very short period of time is directly down to a deeply flawed policy of this government. Not only did they scrap the NTPF last year, they are now closing nursing home beds and shutting excellent facilities like Lifford Hospital. Meanwhile, they are cutting the budgets of acute hospitals like Sligo General Hospital and Letterkenny General Hospital. As a result, Sligo and Letterkenny hospitals will be under more pressure than ever before and patients face even longer waiting lists.
“This crisis must be tackled as a matter of urgency. I am calling on the government to urgently reinstate the NTPF with an exclusive focus on reducing hospital waiting lists in the North West and across the country. I am also calling on the Health Minister James Reilly to reconsider his deeply damaging policy of shutting up to 898 community hospital beds this year.”
New figures from the Health Service Executive show an increase of 1,007 patients or 72 per cent between December 2010 and December of last year Letterkenny General Hospital while Sligo has seen an increase of 54 per cent.
The figures released in the latest performance report from the executive for December 2011 show there are 2,402 people waiting for procedures at Letterkenny General Hospital which includes those waiting less than three months. The figures show 764 people, including six children are waiting between six and 12 months for planned inpatient and day care procedures at Letterkenny General Hospital. Another 721, including 23 children, are waiting between three and six months.
At Sligo General Hospital, the figures for December show there were 2,138 people waiting for planned inpatient and day care procedures. The figures show 414 people were waiting for between six and 12 months for planned inpatient and day care procedures.
The figures were released just days before local politicians in Donegal are due to meet with HSE management for a briefing on the impact on services of reduced budgets for this year.
Pearse Doherty told the Donegal Democrat: “While the figures are a damning indictment of government policy, they do not come as a surprise. The budget at LGH was cut by €8m last year and now it’s to be cut by another €4.3m, from €97m to $97.2m. Sligo is in a terrible position as well, with its budget but by almost €6.5m, from €98m to €91.6m.
“Both hospitals will see a stripping away of core services as a result of government policies. These waiting lists and the cuts in services are what the figures announced on Budget Day really mean for thousands of people who are in pain and suffering. The cuts haven’t even begun to really filter through yet.”
Thomas Pringle added: “It’s clear that the waiting lists are going to get longer. The most efficient hospital in the country, LGH, is being punished by having its budget slashed and the cuts at SGH are going to have such an impact. They won’t be able to deal with the workload.
“The whole thing makes a mockery of James O’Reilly’s policy of money following patients. The HSE talks about making ‘non-service’ cuts of €160m but it’s clear that all cuts are affecting front line services.”