A “staffing crisis” is leading to “unnaceptable” delays in patient care in Cork the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has said.
According to figures released this morning, IHCA said 131,000 were waiting to see a consultant in the South/South-West Hospital Group (SSWHG) in May - an increase of 37% since 2015.
Outpatient waiting lists have also swelled to 69,000.
Inpatient and day-case numbers waiting have increased by 17% in SSWHG and by 42% in Cork hospitals in the last six years.
There has been a 30-fold increase in the number of patients waiting longer than a year for treatment in the past nine years.
The IHCA also said there is a “severe shortage” of hospital consultants in Cork with around one in five permanent consultant posts in the SSWHG region unfilled. The association has claimed the recruitment crisis is exacerbated by current proposals for a new consultant contract.
IHCA President Prof Alan Irvine said:
"These growing waiting lists are not simply a result of Covid-19 but demonstrate the impact of years of consultant shortages and underinvestment in capacity across public hospitals in the region.
“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. These growing waiting lists are not simply a result of Covid-19 but demonstrate the impact of years of consultant shortages and underinvestment in capacity across public hospitals in the region.
“We have a chronic recruitment and retention crisis with 1 in 5 permanent hospital consultant posts not filled. These posts in the SSWHG region are either vacant or filled on a temporary basis.
⬆️900k people across Ireland face months if not years waiting for an appointment to see a consultant due to the chronic recruitment & retention crisis. 1 in 5 posts remain vacant as we await meaningful action by Gov @DonnellyStephen @mmcgrathtd @MichealMartinTD @LeoVaradkar https://t.co/f9zXqtrVXP— IHCA (@IHCA_IE) July 9, 2021
“Reducing the record 885,000 people on some form of waiting list to be treated or seen by a consultant will only be possible by filling the 1 in 5 permanent hospital consultant posts that are currently unfilled and appointing significant additional consultants.
"Unfortunately, the current recruitment and retention crisis is being exacerbated further by the health services’ current approach to impose a new consultant contract without full negotiations with the IHCA.
“Last October, the Minister for Health gave his ‘unambiguous commitment’ 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 negotiations with hospital consultant representative organisations have contributed to the addition of 40,000 people to hospital waiting lists across the country in the period since.”