Enda Kenny has been accused of overseeing a “scandalous” 45% rise in hospital waiting lists over the past two years.
The jump includes 4,500 children on hospital waiting lists – almost half of them waiting for more than a year, said Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.
“One thinks that when talking about children we should be moving might and main to eradicate those waiting times and shorten them dramatically,” he said.
In the Dail, Mr Martin blamed waiting times around the country partly on a lack of urgency to tackle the healthcare crisis.
“The situation is truly scandalous and unacceptable, and particularly for children who are waiting far, far too long to get to see a consultant in our three national children’s hospitals, particularly in Crumlin and Temple Street,” he said.
Mr Martin said 415,000 people are waiting for outpatient appointments, 62,000 of them waiting longer than a year.
More than 75,000 are waiting for hospital procedures.
The Fianna Fail leader and former health minister traced the waiting list crisis to the 2011 decision by then health minister James Reilly to “essentially mothball and destroy” the work of the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
The body was set up to buy in private medical treatment for those forced to wait on public waiting lists.
“He changed the system, it has all been documented, and it has been all downhill since with dramatic increases in waiting times,” Mr Martin said.
“People should not have to wait that long to see a consultant and children in particular should not have to wait that long.”
Mr Kenny said the National Treatment Purchase Fund was being restored, as had been agreed in government formation talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail earlier this year.
An extra 800 million euro is also being put into the health system as the economy improves, he told the Dail.
“That will in turn lead to improvements in a number of sectors,” he said, adding: “A ny waiting list is never satisfactory.”