Up to 350 vacant consultant posts, notes HSE report

Largest hospital in the south, Cork University Hospital, has 33 vacant positions

Medical organisations have estimated that the number of vacant consultant positions could be up to 450. Photograph: Thinkstock

Medical organisations have estimated that the number of vacant consultant positions could be up to 450. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

There are almost 350 vacant hospital consultant posts across the public health service, new HSE figures show.

The largest hospital in the south of the country, Cork University Hospital, which employs 208 consultants*, has 33 vacant positions, according to the figures.

In the Galway University Hospitals – part of the overall Saolta group in the west – there are 18 consultant posts vacant.

In the Dublin-Midlands Hospital Group – which includes St James’s and Tallaght hospitals – there are 43 vacant posts.

There are also 43 vacant consultant posts at the Ireland-East Hospital Group, which includes the Mater and St Vincent’s hospitals in the capital.

The HSE figures show that in the South-South West group, which includes hospitals in Waterford, Tralee, Bantry and Mallow as well as in Cork city, there are 67 vacant consultant positions overall. These include 33 at Cork University Hospital.

Retention difficulties

There are an estimated 3,000 consultants working in the public health service.

The figures, which were released by the HSE in response to a parliamentary question tabled by Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly, come as the Public Service Pay Commission is expected to finalise a report in the coming days on recruitment and retention difficulties in the health service. Unions hope this report will lead to pay increases for their members.

The HSE said it had put in place a new database system that matched consultants to particular posts in hospitals. It said that where a consultant was not matched to a position on the database it was an indicator that the position was vacant.

The HSE said there were currently 349 unmatched consultant positions in hospitals and community settings.

However, it maintained the database had only recently been put in place and that the data matching exercise was not completed. It warned there “may be variances and gaps in the data supplied to that held within hospitals”.

Medical organisations have estimated that the number of vacant consultant positions could be even higher at up to 450.

Crisis

Ms O’Reilly said the figures reinforced the arguments made by hospitals and medical organisations that there was a recruitment and retention crisis.

“The HSE has tried every way to get around the fact that there is a problem, including employing doctors not on the specialist register as consultants and employing locum/agency consultants; but this just papers over the true extent of the crisis,” she said.

“There is a crisis and the Minister for Health and the HSE need to engage with representatives of hospital consultants and come up with a plan to address the situation, because continuing on this current trajectory is extremely dangerous for patients, staff and the health service.”

*This article was edited on August 1st, 2018. A previous version said Cork University Hospital employs 130 consultants. The hospital has said it employs 208 consultants.