There are nearly 50,000 children waiting to see a paediatrician for an outpatient appointment, hospital consultants have said.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said on Sunday that a shortage of consultant paediatricians across all paediatric specialities was restricting children from accessing high-quality medical care.
“This is also contributing massively to growing waiting times where we have seen an increase of 14,965 in the last 36 months, more than a 46 per cent increase in the number of children waiting to see a paediatrician for an outpatient appointment .”
It said more than 19,000 children were waiting longer than 12 months to see a specialist.
Professor of paediatrics at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and consultant paediatrician at Temple Street Children's Hospital Dr Alf Nicholson said: "It is very unacceptable to have a waiting time of anything other than three to six months, at most, for a young child or infant to see a specialist. Sadly, at the moment our wait times are well above that, and that is very distressing to be a part of."
He said “the effects that long waiting lists have on patients is significant”.
“It is solvable if we bring in new specialists. Specialists that should already be a part the health service system”.
The IHCA said there were 47,255 children across Ireland waiting to see a paediatrician for an outpatient appointment in Temple Street, Our Lady's Hospital and the National Children's Hospital at Tallaght which make up the hospital group known as Children's Health Ireland (CHI).
It said that collectively there were:
– 7,988 children are waiting to see a paediatric ENT specialist;
– 5,165 children are waiting to see a paediatric cardiologist;
– 3,735 children are waiting to see a paediatric orthopaedic specialist; and
– 1,989 children are waiting to see a paediatric surgeon.
The IHCA argued that the growing waiting lists were restricting the access of children “to the timely medical care they deserve”.
The IHCA said overall the consultant recruitment crisis was having a detrimental affect on the Irish public health service system in terms of waiting times, timely treatment and patient safety. It said that one in every five permanent consultant posts in the country’s public health service were either unfilled or filled by temporary appointments.
On Saturday The Irish Times reported that the new children’s urgent care centre to be opened at Connolly Hospital next week will only be operational from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday due to a shortage of medical consultants.
The new centre is essentially the first element of the new national children’s hospital project.
CHI said on Friday night that the new centre would open on a phased basis from July 31st because of “temporary vacancies in consultant posts”.
“There are recruitment challenges nationally and internationally in certain specialities such as paediatric radiology and paediatric emergency medicine,” CHI said in a statement.