Consultant shortages and capacity deficits see waiting lists at Cork hospitals rise to 84,400

By dara
Wednesday, 8th February 2023
Filed under: News, PressReleases, 2023

Cork hospitals among worst performers in the country for waiting lists, says IHCA

  • 1 CUH2,300 more people on three main waiting lists for acute hospital care at the end of December 2022 – an increase of 3% since start of 2022;
  • Increases are in contrast to a modest 5% reduction in waiting lists across the SSWHG region as a whole, and a 4% fall nationwide; 
  • Just 19 additional inpatient and day case beds open across six hospitals in Cork compared with three years ago – less than 3% of the additional number opened nationally; 
  • Severe shortage of hospital Consultants in Cork hospitals is main contributor to the unacceptable delays and growing waiting lists, with 1 in 5 permanent Consultant posts unfilled.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has today (Wednesday 8 February 2023) warned that the ongoing shortage of Consultants across Cork hospitals and unaddressed bed capacity deficits is restricting patients from accessing timely, high-quality medical and surgical care and is contributing massively to growing waiting list.

The six hospitals in the Cork region1 saw 2,300 additional people added to their waiting lists for outpatient appointments and procedures in 2022 – a increase of almost 3%.2 This compares with a modest reduction of 5% (-7,800) in the number of people on the three main waiting lists under the Government’s Waiting List Action Plan3 across the wider South/South West Hospital Group (SSWHG), and a 4% (-28,900) fall nationwide, meaning the Plan missed its key targets in the region. 

SIVUHNew analysis from the IHCA shows that Cork hospitals saw their waiting lists increase rather than decrease last year. Collectively these hospitals were 17,400 outpatient appointments and procedures away from meeting the 18% reduction target for the end of 2022. Currently more than 84,400 people are awaiting an outpatient appointment or inpatient/day case procedure across County Cork.
Consultants have raised their concerns that the combination of the unprecedented spike in hospital overcrowding, the longstanding deficits in hospital capacity and the record vacant Consultant posts in the region could see the number of people on hospital waiting lists in the region reach new record highs in the months ahead.

Commenting on the figures for the Cork hospitals, IHCA President Professor Robert Landers said:

“The severe shortage of hospital Consultants in our public health service in Cork and the southern region is the main contributor to the unacceptable delays in providing care to patients. We have a chronic recruitment and retention crisis with 1 in 5 permanent hospital Consultant posts not filled as need across Cork hospitals - that’s 73 Consultant posts either vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis.4 The figure nationally is over 900 unfilled Consultant posts.
“This has led to a situation where we have more than 84,400 people awaiting an outpatient appointment or inpatient/day case procedure in hospitals across Cork and 140,000 in total across the South/ South-West. This is 40,000 more than the number waiting for care across the region eight years ago.
“Cork hospitals have seen the average number of available inpatient and day case beds increase by just 19 beds over the past three years to 1,478 beds.5 This equates to less than 3% of the total number of additional hospital beds opened nationally since the start of the pandemic.  This is a shocking indictment of the lack of urgency on the part of the Health Service Management to address the clear bed capacity deficits in the region, which would relieve some of the chronic hospital overcrowding recently witnessed.

“However, reducing the number of people on waiting list to be treated or seen by a Consultant in a Cork hospital will only be possible by filling the 1 in 5 permanent hospital posts that are currently unfilled and appointing significant additional Consultants.”

1. The six Cork Hospitals are: Cork University Hospital, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Mercy University Hospital, South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Bantry General Hospital, and Mallow General Hospital.
2. Latest NTFP data as at end December 2022:
3. Waiting List Action Plan, 25 February 2022:
4. HSE PQ Response to Deputy David Cullinane, 28 June 2022:
5. HSE PQ Response to Deputy Duncan Smith, 2 November 2022:

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