25 Jun 2022

'Unacceptable' hospital waiting lists - Consultant

Hospital waiting lists in May topped 900,000

Hospital waiting lists in May topped 900,000

Hospital waiting lists in May topped 900,000

Years of underinvestment in the Health Service have led to what the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) described as "unacceptable hospital waiting lists" and long waiting times for patients.

According to the Association, hospital waiting lists in May topped 900,000, due to "public hospital capacity deficits; shortage of acute beds, other facilities and consultant vacancies, which caused cancellations in essential scheduled care."

IHCA President, Professor Alan Irvine said that stalled consultant contract talks must be reconvened to address consultant recruitment crisis and bring waiting lists down.

Professor Irvine added: “We came into 2020 with our public acute hospital service on life support – short on hospital and ICU beds, short on consultants and short on the financial supports to address these capacity deficits.

"While the health budget has increased significantly over the past two years, we cannot say the same of hospital bed capacity or consultant staffing. Years of persistent underinvestment in bed capacity and Consultant recruitment and retention has led us to the point where our public hospitals are simply unable to cope with the demands they now face – which we are seeing in long waiting times at Emergency Departments and growing waiting lists to access care.”

Hospitals waiting lists across the country have still not recovered from the height of the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, according to new analysis by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA).

The highest waiting lists for inpatient or day case treatment during the entire pandemic were recorded in May 2020, when 86,946 patients were awaiting hospital treatment. While most hospitals have seen their inpatient/day case waiting lists decrease somewhat since that peak, data analysed by the IHCA reveals significant increases in the number of patients awaiting inpatient or day case treatment at several hospitals.

Professor Irvine added: “Long waiting times for admission, and hospitals asking people to stay away from Emergency Departments, are just the latest manifestation of the years of persistent underinvestment in bed capacity and the ongoing consultant recruitment and retention crisis. Our public hospitals are simply unable to cope with the acute demands they now face.

“22% of all approved permanent Consultant posts nationally remain either vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis - 838 posts.3 This has resulted in the employment of agency staff at often twice the cost of retaining such specialists through direct employment. The growing waiting lists and Consultant vacancies highlight once again the false economies that exist in our health system which benefit no one.

“Without addressing the shortage of Consultants, hospital beds, theatres, diagnostic and other facilities the Government will not address the core problems facing our public hospitals. In particular, it is imperative the 838 vacant Consultant posts are filled if we are to effectively address the record public hospital waiting lists and excessive waiting times patients are forced to endure to access Emergency Departments.

“To achieve that, the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, must restart the hospital Consultant Contract talks that have been stalled for six months," concluded Professor Irvine.

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