The number of public patients on hospital waiting lists is “at best stable,” despite this year’s €350 million investment aimed at bridging long queues, outgoing HSE chief Paul Reid said yesterday.
Our stated plan was an 18 percent reduction. We’re not up to it at all,” he said, as outpatient waiting lists have grown despite the reduction in the number of gastrointestinal sections needed.
When asked if it was right to “get out” so early, Mr Reid, who is stepping down next month to spend more time with his family ahead of his planned departure date of May 2024, dismissed any suggestion he was being disloyal.
“I gave everything I could – my loyalty cannot be questioned,” he said. “People have to make a personal assessment at different stages and that’s where I am now. I don’t think I left anyone behind or let them down.”
He expects the highest level of activity in tackling hospital waiting lists to occur in the final quarter of the year as the plan ramps up, including the use of private hospitals.
But he is concerned about the winter ahead with the prospect of another Covid surge and a possible severe flu season – although the evidence was in Australia that hospitals were not hit hard.
He is hoping Covid vaccination uptake will increase and he is finalizing site plans with various hospitals for the coming winter.
Mr Reid spoke to health journalists at an HSE conference on integrated care – where different teams treat people in the community and at home to relieve hospitals.
Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly, who opened the conference, said that so far “2,200 staff have been recruited or are at an advanced stage of employment for the improved community care programme. Another 1,400 are planned for this year” to provide outpatient care for the elderly and patients with long-term illnesses.
Mr Reid said moving away from hospitals – which are hampered by limited capacity and saw a record number of patients on trolleys in August – is the way forward if overcrowding is to be reduced.
He said there was also a culture where the emergency room was the “first port of call”, adding that on his visits to hospitals in west Dublin and Limerick he found many of these patients did not have a GP.
When asked about resistance to change within healthcare, he said it would take a major cultural shift to get hospitals and community services to work together – with tensions between them emerging over where to invest.
He said a report assessing the needs surrounding the closure of the emergency room at Navan Hospital and the impact on Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, which will be taking on additional patients, is due in the coming weeks. He added that HSE will act on the report’s findings and that changes need to be made safely.
He is leaving early next month, saying at 58 he has no intention of retiring after leaving the HSE but has no other job prospects “below the belt”.
Speaking as the Medical Council, the regulatory body for doctors, Mr Reid said patient safety was at risk because of a number of important issues doctors were facing – including failure to fill hundreds of hospital consultant and specialist positions, overworked junior staff, and problems with the treatment of foreign doctors here.
The council highlighted how junior hospital doctors fulfill the duties of senior hospital consultants.
There is also a dependency on international medical graduates to sustain services. The majority of young doctors are trained abroad, have no access to specialist training and report being overworked, undervalued and discriminated against.
Council President Dr. Suzanne Crowe said: “The risks are clear: we have vacant consultant positions, continued growth in the General Division of the Medical Council Register and our medical staff continue to suffer from burnout, bullying and overtime.
“The responses of those who have withdrawn from the registry tell a story and unless we accept, acknowledge and act on the shortcomings of our workforce now, ultimately patients will suffer.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/outgoing-hse-chief-paul-reid-admits-350m-spend-has-failed-to-cut-waiting-lists-as-he-defends-decision-to-leave-41954845.html Outgoing HSE chief Paul Reid admits spending of €350m failed to cut waiting lists as he defends decision to leave the company