Hospital waiting lists are ‘out of control’

Waiting lists in Ireland’s public hospitals are out of control and will not be brought back to manageable levels unless resources are redirected to increase acute hospital and mental health frontline capacity, according to the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA). The Association announced details of its 2018 Pre Budget Submission this month.

Dr Tom Ryan, President of the IHCA, said, “There are now over 589,000 people on waiting lists in Ireland’s public hospitals and there is no sign that these numbers are going to decrease. Waiting lists are spiralling out of control because there is not enough capacity in the system. Public hospitals urgently need additional acute beds, intensive care beds, theatre operating time, consultants and other
frontline staff. This is essential to reduce the unacceptable waiting lists, the overcrowding of emergency departments and the increasing number of patients being treated on trolleys. Currently our health care system appears to be more focussed on balancing budgets and rationing care than treating patients.

“Ireland’s population has increased by 12% over the last 12 years, with the population aged 65 years and over increasing by 35%. There are more people than ever requiring healthcare and the upcoming budget must reflect this reality. Throughout the past decade the State has severely rationed healthcare, and with an increasing number of patients becoming reliant on private hospitals, in effect acute hospital services are being privatised by stealth. Notably the private hospitals understand the increase in existing and future demand for health care services and have expanded their bed capacity, unlike the public hospitals,” said Dr Ryan.

“This situation did not arise overnight. But now the waiting lists are increasing at an alarming rate, as a consequence of decades of health care cuts. In addition, lack of acute hospital capacity is impacting adversely on essential surgical appointments, which have declined by over 100,000 (54%) in four years, and on the delivery of timely cancer care to patients. Urgent action is needed to prevent the health system descending into chaos.”

Dr Ryan continued: “The cumulative cuts of nearly €1.9 billion in the current Health Capital Plan for 2016 to 2021, compared with 2008, is rapidly leading to a crumbling health service infrastructure, with acute hospitals attempting to treat patients with equipment that is increasingly obsolete. The current levels of funding do not even meet the cost of maintaining and replacing existing equipment never mind providing for much needed additional capacity. Furthermore, when the new capital investment projects, including the Children’s Hospital and the plans to relocate maternity hospitals, are funded the existing Capital Plan of ¤3 billion will not have sufficient funding to replace obsolete equipment or develop additional capacity to provide care.”

The IHCA has said that Budget 2018 must also provide a significant increase in funding for mental health services which are significantly understaffed and remain funded at 15% below 2008 levels.

In its 2018 submission, the Association highlights the failure of the State to address the consultant recruitment and retention crisis which is significantly impacting on patient care. The 2008 Consultant Contract is not being honoured by the State. This, combined with the ongoing discrimination against new entrant consultants, and the failure to reverse the FEMPI salary cuts, has created an environment where the health services cannot recruit and retain a sufficient number of high calibre consultants. It is unacceptable that over 400 approved hospital
consultant posts are either vacant or filled on a temporary/agency basis. This false economy must be ended as patients are being deprived of care while medical agency costs are exceeding €115m per year. The HSE’s admission that 70 non-specialist doctors have been appointed to Specialist Consultant posts since 2008 demonstrates the extent of the failure of current health service policies to address the ongoing exodus of highly trained consultants.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please Confirm

This website is only for the eyes of medical professionals. Are you a medical professional?