Business-as-usual is not an option, Budget 2023 has to deliver - IHCA
- Over six million people received care in the public hospital system last year by a Consultant, with 907,617 people still waiting to be seen;
- IHCA says if Budget 2023 does not provide sufficient resources and deliver them in full, it could take some 15 years to clear backlog of deferred care.
- Meanwhile, hospital Consultant vacancies at an all-time high of 882 permanent posts not filled as needed;
- At least 300 hospital beds not delivered under previous Budget, leaving people waiting longer for critical procedures and treatment; an estimated 5,000 additional beds are required by 2030.
IHCA President, Professor Alan Irvine: “Motivation to fix the problems in Ireland’s health system is waning, at a time when energy should be firmly behind implementing the solutions, which frontline hospital staff have repeatedly called for over the years. Our ask of the Government for Budget 2023 therefore is simple: deliver it. Give us the essential resources, the capacity and the Consultants to treat our patients on time.”
Speaking today (Monday 29 August 2022) at the publication of its pre-Budget submission, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said that the frontline knowledge and operational learnings from the Covid crisis are not being capitalised upon, while the extreme shortage of hospital Consultants and beds mean rising patient waiting lists will continue.
Publishing analysis today, the IHCA highlighted that the consistent failure to deliver on plans, budgets and Ministerial promises is leading to the continued exodus of medical and surgical talent abroad and increased waiting times, with over 907,000 people now on some form of hospital waiting list across Ireland.
These numbers come at a time when more than 880 permanent hospital Consultant posts are not filled as needed.
The IHCA has previously pointed to the false economy created by the unilateral pay cut imposed by Government on Consultants appointed after 2012. They say that this discrimination, coupled with capacity and investment deficits in the system, has created unattractive working conditions and led to a recruitment crisis resulting in delayed care, poorer patient outcomes, and hundreds of millions in increased State compensation payments for clinical claims and higher agency/locum costs to partially fill vacant Consultant posts.
On beds, the IHCA pointed to promises to add an additional 1,146 beds by the end of last year have also fallen short, with an estimated 317 of these beds yet to materialise. In addition, an estimated 5,000 additional beds will be required by 2030 to provide timely care.
Some Consultants have pointed to what these serious capacity deficits mean for their ability to deliver critical services. Citing examples, of the adverse effect of vacant Consultant posts on patients, such as South Kerry CAMHs services and in hospitals throughout the country.
The IHCA highlighted how one Surgical Oncologist was appointed without access to an operating list or outpatient clinic for almost a year; while theatre capacity for a number of surgeons in another hospital was reduced to 50% compared to pre-Covid levels and has not been restored yet.
The Association projects that even with increased hospital activity compared with pre-pandemic levels, it may still take some 15 years to clear the backlog of deferred care built up during the pandemic.
Commenting, IHCA President, Professor Alan Irvine said:
“Over six million people were provided with medical and surgical care in our public hospital system last year by hospital Consultants – we are stretched like never before. Despite the immense pressures placed on those on the frontline at the height of Covid, there was a semblance of hope that its impact would be a catalyst to finally tackle the obvious problems.
“Instead, motivation to fix the problems in Ireland’s health system is waning, at a time when energy should be firmly behind implementing the solutions.
“A year’s worth of time and momentum has been lost, resulting in worsening patient waiting times.
“We know what the problems are and we know what is required to fix them – we can indeed fix them. But we need the beds and the Consultants to treat the patients in a timely manner. There is nothing new here. We all know what is necessary. These core elements have been committed to in successive plans, budgets and Ministerial promises, but not delivered. The stressful, overstretched business-as-usual approach is not an option. It is time for the Government to stop expecting frontline medical and other staff and their patients to put up with unworkable conditions that don’t exist in public hospital services in developed countries.
“Our ask of the Government for Budget 2023 therefore is simple: deliver it. Give us the essential resources, the capacity and the Consultants to treat our patients on time.”
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