Speaking in the States yesterday, Deputy Richard Renouf, who was appointed as Health Minister earlier this month, said that a shortage of specialist doctors was causing delays within the system and that he intended to be ‘more open’ when it came to waiting lists.
Deputy Renouf said that areas where there were particularly long waits included mental health, dermatology, orthodontics and endocrinology.
Deputy Montfort Tadier asked the minister during question time whether any patients were having to wait unacceptably long times to see consultants or undergo medical procedures.
Deputy Renouf said that he was ‘confident’ that patients with urgent or cancer-related needs were being seen ‘very quickly’, but admitted there were problems with waiting times in some areas of practice.
‘Regrettably for some routine pathways there are some unacceptable delays, and our areas of most concern at the moment for long waits include mental health, dermatology, orthodontics and endocrinology,’ he said.
‘The main reason for those long waits is a shortage of speciality doctors. Members will know the difficulty in all health services in the western world in recruiting and retaining sufficient doctors. In some cases this rise is coupled with a rise in demand for the services.’
The minister added that his department was looking to recruit additional staff to fill vacant posts.
Deputy Tadier said that two of his constituents had contacted him recently to complaint about long waiting times.
He said a dermatitis sufferer had been told they would have to wait nine months for treatment and a woman whose child required braces had been told the waiting list was three years.
He asked the minister if he would publish a report detailing waiting times for health care treatment.
The minister said that he wished to be more transparent in his new role and that there should be ‘no difficulty’ in making the statistics publicly available.
‘When I sought election to this position I said that I did wish to be more open and I still maintain that view,’ he said.
‘I see no difficulty in providing information about waiting times and that should be publicly available and I will investigate clearer ways of making that available.’
Deputy Rob Ward asked the minister if he would consider removing current restrictions on the pay increases of medical professionals to encourage recruitment ‘as a matter of urgency’.
Deputy Renouf said that this was a matter for the States Employment Board and not the minister.
He added that he could not announce an initiative at this time to boost recruitment in the department and that there was ‘no simple answer’ to the problem.