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Mater Dei team formed to look into waiting lists

Audit report had flagged ongoing problems

A team has been created by the CEO of Mater Dei with the mandate and authority to identify and take corrective action following a report by the National Audit Office which flagged long waiting lists.

The CEO, Ivan Falzon, said that several of the NAO’s observations were well known and had been pointed out by several stakeholders over the years, even prior to the migration of services to Mater Dei Hospital.

The report found that the average patient waits more than eight months for their first outpatient appointment at Mater Dei, which handles roughly half a million outpatient visits every year, at an annual cost of approximately €32 million to taxpayers.

Read: Eight months for a hospital appointment: Mater Dei under the NAO spotlight

Waiting lists have long plagued public healthcare services, and the NAO report released on Wednesday indicated that unless systemic problems such as the lack of available consultants in afternoons and weekends were addressed, there was little chance of matters improving in the near future.

Praising the balanced nature of the report, which acknowledged some of the improvements, Mr Falzon said it correctly identified the various challenges that needed to be addressed.

“The hospital recognises that some of these challenges originate from third party stakeholders outside its direct control but as the service provider it has no intention to shirk away from overall managerial and operational responsibility,” he said.

SOME OF THE IMPROVEMENTS:

• Online referral forms were improved and account for 10% of referrals, compared to the 3% of 2014.

• Operational hours were extended into the afternoon and early evening, seeing a 17% increase in activity compared to 2014.

• Around 2,000 text messages are being sent every day to remind patients with outpatient appointments and, in the first few months, there was a significant drop in no-shows.

• A dedicated Outpatient Helpline was introduced in 2016, which improved ‘calls answered’ rate from 63% in late 2014 to circa 92% today.

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