Cancelling essential care should not be the 'go-to' solution to deal with capacity issues

There are almost one million people currently waiting to see a hospital consultant or receive treatment across the country as hospitals are under pressure due to staffing shortages and increasing Covid-19 case numbers.
Cancelling essential care should not be the 'go-to' solution to deal with capacity issues

Cancellation of essential scheduled care cannot be the "go-to" solution to hospital capacity issues amid pressure due to Covid-19, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has said.

There are almost one million people currently waiting to see a hospital consultant or receive treatment across the country as hospitals are under pressure due to staffing shortages and increasing Covid-19 case numbers.

According to the IHCA, the cancellation of scheduled care across Irish hospitals is due to both the latest surge of Covid-19, but also capacity and investment deficits which predate the pandemic.

The IHCA has called on the HSE to publish its National Service Plan for 2022 without delay and commit to delivering on long-promised extra public hospital capacity and additional consultant numbers.

Under pressure

President of the IHCA, Professor Alan Irvine, commented that no hospital consultant wants to tell a patient that their critical treatment has been cancelled.

“We have the opportunity to steer our way out of this crisis and towards a fit-for-purpose system through well based ambitious and practical plans, which have clear public and professional support,” Professor Irvine said.

“But to do this, we need collaborative engagement combined with political will and commitment.

“Otherwise, we will see public hospitals taking the same old route back into crisis mode again and again,” he added

“There is continuous commentary about the health service being under pressure but other than short-term, unsustainable solutions, like cancelling scheduled essential care, there is not enough being done to make our public hospital services more resilient.

“No hospital consultant wants to tell a patient waiting for essential hospital care that their critical treatment has been cancelled and, worse still, that they are not in a position to tell that patient when it will be provided.

“No one could have prepared for this pandemic, but we could and should have been in a better position to meet it head on – and we have not seen adequate action taken over the past two years to bolster our public hospitals against subsequent waves.”

Professor Irvine stressed that building more effective hospital services cannot wait until after the end of the next Covid-19, it needs to be prioritised now.

Cancelling essential surgery cannot credibly be a go-to solution to the ongoing lack of capacity and overcrowding at our acute public hospitals.

According to Professor Irvine, describing the cancellation of essential care as a solution suggests it is solving a problem.

“It is removing access to life enhancing treatment for patients with very complex needs and will only increase record waiting lists even further,” he said.

“It is now the second week of January, and we still do not have a plan for our health service this year.

“This should have been prepared and consulted on while we had the chance at the end of last year and before this latest, inevitable winter wave occurred.

“We all need to be working off a common, clear and considered strategy now.”

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