Ireland’s ailing health service: What consultants say

Extracts from group’s submission highlight long wait times and management problems

Consultant recruitment has led to a nine-year waiting list for an outpatient appointment at University Hospital Waterford

Below are extracts from the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) submission to the Department of Health in response to the Health Service Capacity Review:

Surgery cancellations:

University Hospital Waterford: Cancellations are an ongoing problem with about 30 operations for transurethral resection of the prostate [operations to treat an enlarged prostate] cancelled in the past six months. A large number of older catheterised male patients are languishing on waiting lists with no realistic prospect of being operated on in the short or medium term.

Cork University Maternity Hospital: Theatre closures are a major problem and it is estimated that over 100 surgeries have been cancelled this year to date as a result of low staffing levels.


Beaumont Hospital, Dublin: Shortages in the number of staff has led to protracted theatre closures with one in four theatre lists cancelled on an ongoing basis.

RCSI Hospital Group: A limit of 440 has been placed on the number of orthopaedic joint replacements despite the fact that one hospital within the group has capacity to do well in excess of 700.

South/South West Hospital Group: Comparisons with the National Joint Registry in the UK suggest for one hospital that it should be performing 1,500 joint replacements per year. The hospital currently is restricted to carrying out just 700 per year.


Cork University Hospital: The absence of a vascular laboratory in Cork University Hospital has resulted in an unnecessary increase in attendances at outpatient clinics and radiology facilities as patients are unable to more efficiently gain access to the investigations that they need.

University Hospital Limerick: The Dexa scanner service (bone density) is not available which means that patients who are diagnosed in the rapid access clinic for prostate cancer have to be referred to Tullamore general hospital where they are placed on an ever-lengthening waiting list. This is delaying their treatment significantly.

Merlin Park University Hospital, Galway: The regional Dexa scanner service (bone density) has not been available for approximately two years which is impacting adversely on the treatment of cancer patients and patients with rheumatology conditions.

Mental health services:

Dublin North City and County Mental Health Services: 50 per cent of psychiatric beds were closed in Linn Dara unit as a result of severe difficulties recruiting psychiatric nurses.

Dublin North City and County Mental Health Services: There is a lack of dedicated beds for patients with intellectual disability and comorbid psychiatric issues.

HSE South: Has a catchment area of 1.2 million in population. Based on international recommendations, 40 beds are required to accommodate the patient needs of this population. Currently, just 18 beds are available.

Consultant recruitment:

University Hospital, Waterford: Just two consultant urologists serve a population of 500,000. Presently, there is a nine-year waiting list for an outpatient appointment. At a minimum, the service requires an additional three consultants, three registrars, three SHOs [senior house officers] and two interns in the immediate short-term.