Call on minister to address consultant recruitment crisis

Call on minister to address consultant recruitment crisis
Health Minister Simon Harris pledged earlier this year to start talks in September.

Medical consultants are urging Health Minister Simon Harris to set a date for talks on the recruitment crisis.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has warned against any further talks delay because of “staggeringly high” patient waiting lists.

Latest public hospital waiting list data from the National Treatment Purchase fund show that 564,829 people were waiting at the end of July for a first outpatient consultation— a 2.33% increase on the 551,965 waiting at the end of April.

IHCA vice-president and leading #CareCantWait campaigner Laura Durcan said the lack of urgency being taken is progressively destroying the basic fabric of hospital services.

“The Government’s current approach of delay, in the hope of limping to the next general election, is unacceptable and is failing vulnerable patients,” said Dr Durcan.

Dr Durcan said consultants in Ireland do not think it is OK for patients to wait for years to see a specialist.

“None of this is OK; you should be able to access timely care,” she said.

Currently, one in five, or more than 500, permanent consultant posts are either empty or only temporarily filled across the health services.

Earlier this year, Mr Harris committed to starting talks with consultant representative bodies next month.

The IHCA is acutely aware that the minister’s pledge has followed similar commitments made in October 2018 and in March and April this year.

It is also concerned that the waiting list to see a hospital consultant continues to grow with almost 7,000 patients joining the waiting lists every month since the start of the year.

Since 2014 the number of patients waiting has grown by 200,000, a 54% increase.

As part of the ongoing #CareCantWait campaign, the IHCA has released a new video today with Dr Durcan, a consultant rheumatologist, highlighting the unacceptable wait times being endured by patients.

More than 30,000 patients are waiting to see a consultant urologist and of that almost 13,000 have been waiting more than a year.

Almost 46,000 patients are waiting to see a consultant dermatologist with over 14,000 waiting for more than a year. Dr Durcan said there were many other examples of “equally staggeringly” high number of patients waiting.

Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) says a shortfall of 595 consultants across 10 key specialities is why waiting lists keep growing and it was inextricably linked with the pay differential for consultants.

The IMO is releasing a new video on Twitter today with the hashtag #RightForFairness as part of its campaign to get the Government to reverse the 30% cut in new consultants’ pay imposed in 2012. 

It will hold a ballot for strike action among its consultant members next month if the Government has not engaged in talks to reverse the cut by then.

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