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Minister defends adviser's role
[Posted: Fri 15/06/2012 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Health Minister James Reilly has defended the role of UK expert Dr Martin Connor, who is employed as adviser to his Special Delivery unit tasked with reducing waiting lists and ED trolley waits.
The Minister, in a Dail reply this week, pointed out that a total of 203 patients were waiting more than 12 months for procedures in hospitals at the end of May, a reduction of 78% since January.
The Minister's Special Delivery Unit, established last summer with Dr Connnor as adviser, has launched initiatives to tackle both treatment waiting lists and ED trolley waits.
The Minister, in his reply, did not, however, provide an overall up-to-date breakdown of treatment waiting times in all time categories.
The last comprehensive waiting list figures published showed that at the end of March, the total numbers on waiting lists had increased by 6% to 59,000 since the SDU was set up.
While the number of patients waiting over 12 months for treatment had been reduced considerably, the numbers waiting between six and nine months for procedures jumped by 39% during that period, the figures showed.
The Minister, in the Dail response to independent TD Michael Healy-Rae, defended the record of Dr Martin Connor as part of the SDU initiative to reduce waiting lists and trolley waits. He pointed out that ED trolley numbers decreased by 17% in the first four months of 2012 compared to the same period last year.
However, there is still major overcrowding in some large hospitals, including those that received a cash injection from the SDU late last year to in order reduce trolley numbers.
The Minister said Dr Connor had also provided expert advice and analysis in areas such as hospital capacity planning systems, in the development and implementation of a results-oriented accountability framework and in improvement in processes for timely and equitable access to outpatient services.
Deputy Healy-Rae queried the fact that Dr Connor, despite working as adviser to the SDU for a payment of €160,000 per annum, also spends some of this time working in the United States, and asked how much time Dr Connor spends working in Ireland.
The Minister did not address this in his response. However, he said Dr Connor was a renowned international expert with a proven record in health service transformation and he had the exceptional knowledge and skills needed to guide the SDU in the next phases of his work.
The amount paid out by the Department of Health for services provided by Dr Connor amounted to €330,000 between June 2011 and the end of June 2012.
In addition, Dr Connor will receive a total of €400,000 in payments of €40,000 per quarter between now and the end of 2014, meaning the UK expert's total ex VAT cost will be €730,000 by the end of the completion of his contract in 2014.
Another UK healthcare expert, Lis Nixon, was earlier this year appointed Director of Performance Improvement for Unscheduled Care at the Department of Health, following a tendering process which looked for an outside consultancy. She is being paid €164,000 per year under a three-year contract.
In addition, a further outside consultancy is to be appointed shortly to assist the SDU in performance improvement in scheduled (planned) treatment in hospitals.
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