CORK TDs have called on the Government to support healthcare services in light of a significant number of vacant consultant positions.
Sinn Féin North Central representative Thomas Gould said waiting lists have been allowed to build up.
He said: “With 25 vacant consultant positions at Cork University Hospital in May, we know that unless something is done, waiting lists are going to continue to spiral out of control. On August 31st, there were 31,318, and 5,382 children awaiting outpatient treatment at the hospital.
“Unless these posts are filled and there is a significant investment in the hospital, the numbers waiting will only increase. Waiting lists have been allowed to spiral over the last decade, due to chronic underfunding by the Government. Patients and their families deserve timely healthcare which meets their needs.”
South Central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said waiting lists for mental health services particularly in child mental health are having an impact on those seeking treatment.
“Waiting lists for mental health services, particularly child mental health are having a detrimental impact on those seeking treatment for serious mental health issues. In January this year, 35% of children on the CAMHS waiting list had been waiting over six months. As of May, there were two vacant consultant roles in the service. Across Cork’s mental health system, there are five vacant posts. The long-term impact this is having on children and adults across Cork is devastating.”
The Cork South Central TD said the system needs a fresh start.
“Sinn Féin’s plan includes 600 more beds above the Government’s current plans, filling more than 600 consultant posts and hiring 4,000 additional hospital staff, and 430 critical care beds by 2025. We need a fresh start with a system which is fair for workers and ensures patients get the modern healthcare they need.”
Speaking on the current consultant vacancies in Cork hospitals, Irish Hospital Consultants Association Vice President, Professor Robert Landers, said: “The fact that almost one in five consultant posts in Cork hospitals are either vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis is indicative of the severity of the consultant recruitment and retention crisis in the South/South West region.
“In the South/South West Hospitals Group, 21% of the approved Hospital Consultant posts were either vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis – that’s 118 out of a total of 553 approved consultant posts in the region as of May 2021. 61 of these vacancies were across Cork hospitals,” he added.
Mr Landers, who spoke with some Cork colleagues for their insights, said the vacancies have contributed to the lengthy hospital waiting list in the region.
“Since August 2015, more than 19,200 additional people have been added to the outpatient waiting list in Cork hospitals which is a 35% increase. There are also more than 6,000 people on inpatient/day case waiting lists in the county.
“This waiting list for essential hospital treatment has increased by 43% since 2015. Of those waiting for inpatient or day case care in Cork hospitals, more than 1,300 are waiting longer than a year which is an increase of 165% in the past six years alone.
“Sadly, these waiting lists are likely to worsen in the coming months as more people who have put off seeking care during the pandemic continue to enter the system, and as a result of the ongoing impact of the cyber-attack on the HSE,” he added.
Professor Landers, who is a consultant pathologist at Waterford University Hospital said another problem they encounter is medical graduates emigrating abroad upon completion of their studies.
“Our highly trained medical specialists which our public hospitals desperately need to recruit are emigrating abroad, to health systems that don’t discriminate against them. They do not want to work in a system that is not fit for purpose. Our Cork hospitals will continue to be unable to recruit and retain these highly skilled medical specialists until the consultant salary inequity, applied since 2012, ends.”
Mr Landers has called on the Government to intervene.
“If we are going to tackle the waiting list crisis and treat our patients as needed, then the Government must act immediately to ensure these circumstances, which have led to such chronic consultant shortages, are urgently resolved.”