Dáil Éireann - Volume 522 - 29 June, 2000

Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

149. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has an analysis of waiting lists for by-pass operations in the cardiac section of the Mater Hospital; the number on the list; the number under six months, six to 12 months, one to two years, two to three years, three to four years and over four years; if most urgent cases are always dealt with; if there is any [1211] policy to deal with cases on the list for over two years; when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 will have a by-pass carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19090/00]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The responsibility for the provision of services at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority in the first instance. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

150. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will have examinations made into the waiting lists for heart by-pass operations; the number of people on the list in the past five years who were subsequently reassessed and removed from the list as no longer in need of an operation; the number who were taken off list as being too old; the number who were taken off the list after they went private and were forced to borrow, mortgage and fund-raise and have the operation carried out privately for cash by the same consultants; if he will quantify the resources made available for cardiac departments in the past five years; the national capacity for by-pass operations; if this is being achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19091/00]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The information requested by the Deputy is not routinely collected in my Department. However, the Deputy will be aware, that since becoming Minister for Health and Children, I have identified reducing waiting lists and waiting times, including cardiac surgery waiting lists, as a priority objective.

In 1998, my predecessor allocated funding of £2.3 million under the cardiac surgery waiting list initiative, with the specific aim of reducing the national cardiac surgery waiting list for adults and children. In 1999, my predecessor made provision for the allocation of £4 million under the cardiac surgery waiting list initiative and I am making a further £4 million available in 2000. I am confident that this year's funding will build on previous years' success in reducing the total number of adults and children on the waiting list. The cardiac surgery waiting list initiative has had and will continue to have a positive impact on the public cardiac waiting list. The total number of public patients, adults and children, awaiting cardiac surgery has reduced from 1,586 in September 1997 to 937 in March 2000, which represents a reduction of 41%.

As Minister for Health and Children, my priority is to address the existing cardiac surgery waiting lists and the ultimate objective is to achieve an average six month waiting period for those on the lists. I am confident that the development of additional adult public cardiac surgery facilities at St. James's Hospital, Dublin [1212] and the proposed new cardiac surgery developments at University College Hospital, Galway will help reduce the waiting lists which exist at present. Target activity levels are in the region of 450 procedures annually at St. James's Hospital and 300 procedures at UCHG. This additional activity will increase the existing national adult public cardiac surgery capacity by over 50%. I am also developing additional children's cardiac surgery capacity at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin in association with the national cardiac unit, Mater Hospital to provide for up to an additional 100 cardiac procedures for children. This additional activity will increase existing paediatric cardiac surgery capacity by up to 40%.

When the cardiovascular health strategy was launched in July of last year, my Department set a medium term objective to bring our levels of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease in line with the EU average at a minimum. Our longer term objective is to reduce our rates to those of the best performers in the EU. At age 65, Ireland has the lowest life expectancy in the EU with the single biggest contributor being heart disease. There is room for major improvements before we attain the average life expectancy enjoyed by our European neighbours. Our overall goal is to achieve life expectancy which at a minimum compares with the EU average. The challenge now is to implement the recommendations of the cardiovascular health strategy group by developing structures and mechanisms which promote cardiovascular health, reduce inequalities, ensure a high quality of service provision and reduce variations in access to and quality of services.

A sum of £12 million has been provided to commence the implementation process in 2000. I am confident that over the coming years the necessary funding will be provided to allow us to achieve our goals in implementing the various actions set out in the strategy.

My officials are currently undertaking a review of bed capacity under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness. The review will identify the capacity of the hospital system to manage the reduction of waiting times for elective treatment.