It could take 15 years to clear the current hospital waiting lists unless funding is urgently provided to help patients, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has said.
As the Irish Examiner reports, hospital waiting lists have now reached over 907,000 across all specialities, including over 100,000 children waiting to be seen.
This is despite over 6 million patients being treated last year as the growing population increases pressure on the system.
“Motivation to fix the problems in Ireland’s health system is waning, at a time when energy should be firmly behind implementing the solutions, which frontline hospital staff have repeatedly called for over the years,” IHCA president Professor Alan Irvine said.
Analysis showed the number of patients on waiting lists is rising in parallel with consultant vacancies, which the IHCA linked to a decision in 2012 to reduce salaries for newly-hired consultants compared to their colleagues, leading to what Prof Irvine called a toxic work environment.
There are currently 882 permanent posts unfilled or filled by a locum temporary doctor, the IHCA said, including 108 non-specialist consultants working in roles they are not fully qualified for according to the registration requirements.
The group warned the extreme shortage of hospital consultants and beds will mean that rising patient waiting lists will continue unchecked.
“We know what the problems are, and we know what is required to fix them, we can indeed fix them. But we need the beds and the consultants to treat the patients in a timely manner,” Prof Irvine said.
“There is nothing new here. We all know what is necessary. These core elements have been committed to in successive plans, budgets and ministerial promises, but not delivered. The stressful, overstretched business-as-usual approach is not an option.”
The IHCA estimates that an additional 5,000 beds are needed by 2030 to address these shortfalls.