One in eight consultant posts remains unfilled

Senator says total likely to be nearer 300 when voluntary hospitals are included

Minister for Health James Reilly told the Dáil this week that the number of consultants in the health service had increased from 1,947 in 2005 to 2,670 last December

Minister for Health James Reilly told the Dáil this week that the number of consultants in the health service had increased from 1,947 in 2005 to 2,670 last December

Fri, Apr 4, 2014, 01:00

One in eight consultant posts in the health service remains unfilled due to a lack of qualified staff, the Oireachtas health committee heard yesterday.

Some 253 consultant vacancies have been identified by hospitals, representing 12 per cent of the total consultant workforce of more than 2,000 staff, according to information drawn up by the HSE.

This includes vacancies currently filled by locum doctors.

Fine Gael Senator Colm Burke said these figures covered HSE hospitals only, and the total number of vacant posts was likely to be nearer 300 when voluntary hospitals were included. “To have a comprehensive health service you have to have people to provide that service, and key to that are consultants,” he told the committee.

He pointed out that the number of vacancies continued to rise so that “we may end up with 15 to 20 per cent of posts unfilled”.

Vacancies
Further information from the HSE shows that there are 73 senior house officer vacancies in hospitals, while 136 registrar posts remain unfilled.

Combined vacancies represent 4 per cent of the total non-consultant workforce of hospital doctors of almost 5,000 posts.

The HSE says 416 nursing vacancies are currently being recruited, while figures on vacancies not being progressed are not routinely available.

Voluntary hospitals conduct their own recruitment and are not included in the figures.

Minister for Health James Reilly told the Dáil this week that the number of consultants in the health service had increased from 1,947 in 2005 to 2,670 last December. However, there was an international shortage in some specialities which have been difficult to fill traditionally.

Onerous rosters
“There are also some hospitals to which it has historically been difficult to attract applicants, in particular smaller hospitals that have onerous rosters due to a limited number of consultants.”

The establishment of hospital groups would help to address the issue, he said, as they would allow doctors to be appointed as group resources instead of serving single hospitals.

He said of the 253 consultant vacancies, 219 were filled by temporary or locum appointees.

Representative groups have claimed a 25 per cent pay cut to the salary of new staff has discouraged suitable candidates from applying.