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The Private Hospitals Association (PHA) has called on the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to convene a crisis summit over hospital waiting lists, claiming that radical solutions are now required to ensure tackle waiting lists on a permanent basis.

Chief Executive of the PHA, Simon Nugent, compared the situation to “a chronic Groundhog Day” for hundreds of thousands of patients and their families waiting for treatment.

“The figures are an indictment of the Government promise to cut waiting lists in 2017. It is astounding that almost one in seven people in Ireland today languish on some form of public waiting list while capacity exists in private hospitals around the country”.

He stated that there are almost 692,000 patients waiting for treatment or review in public hospitals, highlighting the fact this problem is in danger of becoming normalised in the eyes of those tasked to deal with it.

“The Minister has already recognised that the capacity to treat non-emergency patients does not exist. His solution seems to be to build three new dedicated elective hospitals but what are patients to do in the 10 years before that happens? That’s precisely what this summit should address”.

Mr Nugent asserted that better partnering between public and private hospitals could provide a solution for increasing waiting lists: “Private Hospitals have the capacity to reduce the numbers awaiting inpatient and day case procedures by 50 per cent within a year.

“We could make an even bigger impact on the endoscopy list and also help with the outpatients waiting lists if the HSE wished to make use of our state of the art diagnostic equipment”.

He added: “Not only do patients suffer but as the system buries its head in the sand, it incurs much greater costs down the line from the delay. Early treatment means more straightforward and cheaper treatment as well as greatly reducing the chronic suffering of the patient”.

Mr Nugent concluded: “Government can free up capacity in public hospitals by instructing managers to route insured patients directly to private hospitals rather than continuously admitting them into the public system and further clogging up the system for public patients”.