27 extra consultants to cut waiting time


Moves to cut waiting times in casualty departments have been boosted by a decision by Comhairle na nOspideal to authorise the appointment of an extra 27 accident and emergency consultants. They will work in regional hospitals around the country.

The posts had been announced some weeks ago by the Minister for Health and Children, Mr Martin, as part of his "winter initiative".

However, there were fears a delay in getting authorisation from Comhairle na nOspideal would delay the appointments until next winter.

But the outgoing comhairle, which ended its term last week, agreed to give temporary authorisation for the posts. It also agreed in principle to the appointment of 15 anaesthetists.

The move has been welcomed by the Irish Medical Organisation and the Irish Hospital Consultants' Association.

Having more consultants on site should reduce the time patients spend waiting to be seen in accident and emergency departments. Lengthy waits have become a constant source of complaint, especially in Dublin and Cork. Extra consultants should also improve the quality of decision-making in these departments.

However, the IMO said it was vital that backup services in terms of nurses and extra beds be made available to these consultants. "There must be more beds created," said Mr Fintan Hourihan, the IMO's director of industrial relations, referring to the thousands of beds lost during the cutbacks of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Patients in Dublin city centre have seen their hospital service worsen since the closure of the Meath and Adelaide hospitals in 1998, a new report suggests. Prof D.I.D. Howie, chairman of St James's Hospital, writes in the report that the result of the closures "has been nothing more nor less than saturation bed occupancy in the hospital which feeds back into the long delays experienced by patients awaiting a bed in the emergency department and to cancellations of day procedures and of elective admissions for operations".

Many health boards are expressing confidence they will be able to fill non-consultant hospital doctor (NCHD) posts from January 1st, when six-month contracts are due to change.


Hospital Watch special: http://www.ireland.com/special/hospital