Acute hospital system is at breaking point, say consultants

IHCA says treatment waiting lists growing by 7,000 per month

Dr Laura Durcan, vice-president of the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association with president Dr Donal O’Hanlon, Dr Gabrielle Colleran and  Martin Varley, the association’s secretary general, at the launch of its pre-Budget 2020 submission. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/ The Irish Times

Dr Laura Durcan, vice-president of the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association with president Dr Donal O’Hanlon, Dr Gabrielle Colleran and Martin Varley, the association’s secretary general, at the launch of its pre-Budget 2020 submission. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/ The Irish Times

 

Hospital consultants have said the numbers of patients on waiting lists for treatment is now growing by about 7,000 per month.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) also forecast that this year will be the worst on record for patients requiring admission having to wait on trolleys.

It also said the health service was missing key targets in relation to some forms of cancer care including access to symptomatic breast disease clinics being 44 per cent below target.

IHCA president Dr Donal O’Hanlon said the acute hospital system was at breaking point due to a severe shortage of consultants and a lack of beds and other facilities.

“The quality and safety of patient care is deteriorating further due to persistent under-investment.”

“We cannot expect patients to continue to wait for the ‘promised land’ of Sláintecare.”

IHCA secretary general Martin Varley said his organisation wanted the Government in the forthcoming budget to increase funding for acute hospitals and mental health services to maintain existing services as well as to deal with unmet and increasing demand.

He said the existing €5.294 billion allocation to acute hospitals was insufficient. However, he declined to estimate a figure for what an adequate budget would be.

Mr Varley called on the Government to immediately restore pay parity between consultants appointed since October 2012 and their more longer-serving colleagues.

He opposed proposals put forward in a recent official report given to the Minster for Health that while pay parity should be introduced for consultants appointed in future, they should in return see only public patients in public hospitals.

The IHCA also called for an increase in the number of hospital beds to improve capacity. Mr Varley said the Government should “front-load” the delivery of the additional 2,600 acute beds promised under the National Development Plan.

He said the Government’s announcement on Monday that 480 additional hospital beds will be put in place over three years was “extremely disappointing”.

The IHCA said any future overruns involving the new National Children’s Hospital should be funded separately to avoid the cancellation or delay in putting in place other essential capital projects.

Dr O’Hanlon said “despite the economic bounce-back in recent years and strength of exchequer revenues, this has not translated into adequate investment in our public hospitals for a better health service”.

“Instead, access to timely care is worsening as the numbers waiting grow.”