The Taoiseach has said a plan to tackle the serious delays and healthcare waiting lists will be announced shortly.
There are more than 100,000 children on waiting lists for treatment, assessment and diagnostic tests.
Micheál Martin said a plan will soon be confirmed to address the large number of young children who are waiting for diagnostic tests, including CTs and ultrasounds.
Mr Martin said the number is “unacceptable”.
"We've 100,000 children on these waiting lists. This isn't a covid overhang. These children and their families need the assurance that government will invest the resources to tackle this" – @MaryLouMcDonald #Dáil #HealthCrisis #LeadersQuestions pic.twitter.com/o816RPMFpe
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) September 28, 2021
The Fianna Fáil leader told the Dáil that the two lockdowns led to reduced capacity in healthcare settings.
He faced criticism from Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, who said that these children have been failed by “bad” Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael policies.
Mrs McDonald said children who need early intervention face a two-year wait and cannot get access to therapies.
“I’m talking about children with scoliosis, who lived their days and nights in agony, waiting for a life-changing procedure,” the Dublin TD told the Dáil.
“Taoiseach, there shouldn’t be one child or family left in such an awful situation, let alone thousands upon thousands.
“I personally know of parents of children who miss school regularly because of chronic pain, children so traumatised by their weight that they are on antidepressants, children and parents that see no light at the end of the tunnel.
“Of course at the root of this is decades of bad Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael policy, 40 years of pushing private interests, weakening public healthcare, of slashing capacity in our hospitals, and of creating nightmarish working conditions for nurses and doctors.”
She said the problem has been exacerbated by the vacant consultant positions.
“We see this failure agenda again in the problems that have arisen with the delivery of Sláintecare, in your failure, for example, to fill on a permanent basis 720 vital consultants’ positions,” Mrs McDonald added.
“The problem is that your government is wedded to a two-tier system that has failed people time and again and that’s why we continue to have a system that doesn’t work for everyone.
“Urgent action is needed to tackle the colossal number of children on waiting lists.
“Your job is to do right by these kids and there are things that you could start today that would make a difference.”
She called on Mr Martin to commit to filling the 720 consultant positions on a permanent basis and invest in areas such as orthopaedics, ENT and urology.
The Taoiseach said that children’s waiting lists have previously been reduced to three months.
“It is our objective right across the board, from mental health to disabilities and to the acute issues in the various specialties, to get the time for children reduced very, very considerably,” he added.
He said that an action plan to address waiting lists will be announced soon.
Mr Martin said: “The waiting list plan will be announced shortly by the minister in respect of tackling these very large numbers, which are unacceptable.
“Be under no illusion that substantial change has occurred, and without question targeting the significant waiting lists that have increased significantly because of pandemic is a key priority over the next number of weeks.”