One in five Irish operating theatres idle, consultants say

Underfunding of hospital and mental health services damaging patient care, group claims

Up to one in five operating theatres in hospitals across the State are lying idle because of staff shortages or a lack of resources, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association has claimed. Photograph: Thinkstock.

Up to one in five operating theatres in hospitals across the State are lying idle because of staff shortages or a lack of resources, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association has claimed. Photograph: Thinkstock.

 

Up to one in five operating theatres in hospitals across the State are lying idle because of staff shortages or a lack of resources, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association has claimed.

More than 300 consultant posts have not been permanently filled, with a significant number of recruitment campaigns attracting only one applicant or, in some cases, none at all, according to the organisation.

Continued underfunding of the hospital and mental health services is damaging patients’ care and has created a major crisis in the healthcare system, it says.

The association says without sufficient funding for services, consultants do not have the resources to provide high quality, safe healthcare services that patients need and deserve.

Launching its pre-budget submission, association general secretary Martin Varley warned of “extremely adverse consequences” if the health services were forced to cut spending to stay within “unrealistic” annual budget limits.

It is also calling on the Government to fully reverse a 30 per cent cut to consultants’ salary dating from 2012 so that new entrants to the profession enjoy pay parity. The Government has partly reversed the cut but the association says new recruits would still earn 20 per cent less than colleagues after four years in post.

Association president Dr Gerard Crotty pointed to the overcrowding crisis in emergency departments, and in particular recent cases where a number of patients aged over 100 years languished over 24 hours on a trolley.

“There are significantly more patients awaiting care today than this time last year. As we approach the 1916 centenary, is this the bst that we can do after one hundred years?”

Unless more resources were provided, overcrowding in emergency departments next winter would be worse even during last winter, when over 600 patients were on trolleys at one point, he warned.