Ongoing Government failure to address chronic consultant recruitment crisis leaves almost a million waiting for care
- Acute hospital figures at tipping point - as Covid restrictions and vaccine roll out strive to reduce daily case numbers, non-Covid care waiting lists skyrocket.
- Hospital Consultants call for Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD to uphold his commitment to address root cause of 728 vacant consultant posts and subsequent record waiting lists.
- Lack of resolution to the consultant recruitment and retention crisis has contributed to some hospitals experiencing a 100% increase in inpatient waiting lists in the last year alone and a total of 881,621 now waiting for care, nationally.
IHCA President Prof Alan Irvine: “Last October, the IHCA welcomed the ‘unambiguous commitment’ by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD to address the root causes of Ireland’s chronic consultant recruitment and retention crisis, including the restoration of full pay parity. Failure to uphold that commitment and to engage in meaningful discussions with hospital consultants have contributed to an addition of 38,258 people to hospital waiting lists in the period since. While the Minister has worked to reduce Covid sickness and death since October, he and his officials must look to address the unacceptable delays in providing care to non-Covid patients and ever-growing waiting lists.”
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has today (Friday, 9 April 2021) warned it is increasingly urgent that the required additional consultant staffing and extra capacity is put in place in hospitals if the ever-increasing waiting lists are to be reduced.
Analysis by Hospital Consultants confirms the shocking increases in the number of patients waiting for hospital treatment and outpatient appointments where now, 881,621 people wait for care, an increase of 42,946 in 2021 alone.
The latest National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures released today show the hospitals experiencing the highest increases in outpatient waiting lists over the past year include:
- Cork University Maternity Hospital (81%)
- Mayo University Hospital (46%)
- St Michael’s, Dun Laoghaire (40%)
- Wexford General Hospital (33%)
- Galway University Hospitals (30%)
- Cork University Hospital (26%)
- Royal Victoria Eye & Ear (25%)
- Naas General Hospital (25%)
Overall, consultant shortages, capacity deficits and the pandemic have resulted in a record 628,756 people now on the outpatient waiting list - an increase of over 66,000 (12%) in the past year and an additional 16,673 since October 2020, when Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the IHCA Annual Conference that he was “unambiguously committed” to pay restoration for Hospital Consultants appointed since 2012, a move which would immediately aid the filling of the current 728 vacant consultant posts.
For those patients awaiting hospital treatment, there are also sizeable increases over the past 12 months in the inpatient/day case waiting lists, particularly in:
- Croom Orthopaedic Hospital (205%)
- Naas General Hospital (161%)
- Wexford General Hospital (115%)
- MRH, Mullingar (101%)
- Mallow General Hospital (78%)
- St James’s Hospital (49%)
In totality, the latest waiting list figures are likely to be an underestimation of the true unmet demand for treatment as they do not yet include all those who have had their care disrupted or have postponed seeking care and referrals to hospitals for appointments during the pandemic. These waiting lists run the risk of further substantial increases over the coming months if action is not taken.
The IHCA says the HSE’s recent projection that there will be a decrease of 190,000 hospital outpatient appointments this year compared with pre-Covid levels demonstrates the lack of urgency in addressing the root cause of the consultant recruitment and retention crisis which is a key solution needed to reduce the country’s unacceptable waiting lists and meet the built-up demand created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Commenting on today’s waiting lists, IHCA President Professor Alan Irvine, said:
“Our acute hospital figures are at a tipping point. Covid restrictions and the vaccine are striving to reduce daily case numbers; meanwhile non-Covid care waiting lists are dangerously increasing.
“Last October, the IHCA welcomed the ‘unambiguous commitment’ by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD to address the root causes of Ireland’s chronic consultant recruitment and retention crisis, including the restoration of full pay parity. Failure to uphold that commitment and to engage in meaningful discussions with hospital consultants have contributed to an addition of 38,258 people to hospital waiting lists in the period since. While the Minister has worked to reduce Covid sickness and death since October, he and his officials must now look to address the unacceptable delays in providing care to non-Covid patients and ever-growing waiting lists.
“Minister Donnelly must engage with the Association on record and growing waiting lists. including the solutions at his disposal to fill the 728 permanent consultant posts that are vacant and the opening of additional hospital facilities. If these twin deficits are not addressed without delay, the structural mismatch between capacity and demand will continue to increase rather than decrease waiting times.
“The appointment of additional consultants, on terms to be agreed with their representatives, is the key enabler that is required to tackle the unacceptable waiting lists now totalling 881,621. These existing lists, coupled with the backlog of an estimated 700,000 fewer hospital appointments that have arisen due to the pandemic last year and the expected 200,000 reduction this year, risk crippling our public health system. Unfortunately, failure to urgently address these issues can only lead to reduced patient outcomes, a scenario that can and should be avoided by the Minister.”
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