Dáil Éireann - Volume 433 - 08 July, 1993

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

138. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health if he will consider the introduction of a combined waiting list for public and private patients for operations in order to deal with the disadvantage suffered by public patients who often have to endure substantially longer waiting periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin): The current arrangements for admission to public hospital beds arise from a specific commitment agreed with the Social Partners in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. Under these arrangements, consultants' private patients availing of public hospitals may not be admitted to a public bed, except where an emergency admission is necessary but private or semi-private accommodation is not available.

These arrangements were considered by the Government and the Social Partners to provide more equitable access for public patients than the previous system under which public and private patients were admitted to public beds from the same waiting list, and I have no proposal to revert to the combined waiting list.

The Deputy will be aware of the Government's recent initiative which involves the allocation of £20 million for a major action programme to reduce waiting times in the areas of orthopaedic surgery (hip replacement and other procedures), ophthalmology (cataract), ear, nose and throat surgery, cardiac surgery (by-pass operations), vascular surgery (varicose veins) and plastic surgery. This initiative is targetted exclusively at public patients.