Press Release

Minister Martin welcomes further drop in hospital waiting lists

The number of people waiting for cardiac surgery has been halved, as has the waiting list for gynaecological procedures, according to figures released today (Friday 9th March) by the Minister for Health, Micheál Martin, T.D. Overall hospital waiting lists have gone down by almost a quarter since December 1999.

The number of patients on waiting lists at 30 December 2000 was 27,857, a drop of 8,998. 1,800 came off the waiting lists in the last three months of last year.

“This is more than a significant reduction,” the Minister said today. “It’s a reduction that confirms a solidly established trend. I made it clear when I came into office that I was committed to shorten waiting lists, and I’ve put resources and commitment into making it happen.”

The Minister pointed out that the reduction has been achieved in spite of unprecedented problems such as nursing shortages which had closed operating theatres in some major acute hospitals, and predicted that the figures would further improve as more of those hospitals were enabled to re-open their facilities. Initiatives to recruit medical and nursing grades at home and abroad are paying dividends and the Minister is committed to continue these to enable the list to be reduced further.

The Minister also acknowledges that a number of hospitals continue to carry out validation procedures as part of an on-going exercise and this contributes to a more accurate reflection of persons waiting for treatment.

The latest figures show that significant decreases have taken place in a number of target specialties since December 1999:

  • Cardiac Surgery dropped from 1,202 in December 1999 to 545 in December 2000 – a 55% decrease.
  • Gynaecology dropped from 2,571 in December 1999 to 1,385 in December 2000 – a 46% decrease).

In addition, large reductions were achieved in these areas:

Orthopaedics  29%
Ophthalmology  27%
E.N.T.  24%
Urology  24%

 In 2001, £34.5 million is being made available to health agencies to support waiting list procedures.

The waiting list figures should also be seen in the broader national context. It is estimated that last year will see an overall increase of 5% for all hospital discharges. The estimated increase of 5% means that an extra 42,000 patients will have been treated in 2000; in total in excess of 870,000 will have been treated by the hospital system in the year 2000.

“We’re determined to cut the time people have to wait for such serious procedures, and we’re clearly making substantial progress,” the Minister concluded.