Consultants: Health system crumbling; More than 589,000 people on waiting lists

Ireland’s healthcare system is crumbling with overstretched acute hospitals attempting to treat patients with equipment that is increasingly obsolete, consultants have warned.

A report from the Irish Hospital Consultants Association paints a bleak picture of a health service with more than 589,000 people on waiting lists and no sign of a decrease in these numbers.

IHCA president Dr Tom Ryan was extremely pessimistic when he launched the association’s pre-budget submission yesterday.

“Here we are now with a system that is patently a failure because it is not providing the public with the service that they need,” said Dr Ryan. “The current levels of funding do not even meet the cost of maintaining and replacing existing equipment, never mind providing much needed additional capacity.”

The IHCA is concerned there will not be enough left in the six-year €3bn health capital plan to replace obsolete equipment or develop additional care capacity when new projects, such as the National Children’s Hospital and the relocation of maternity hospitals are funded.

Dr Ryan said waiting lists were “out of control” with about 400,000 people waiting to see a hospital consultant. Another 80,000 people who have seen a consultant were awaiting surgery.

Over the last four years, the number of planned surgeries carried out decreased from 187,000 to 86,000.

“So our capacity to deliver elective surgery to the public was cut by 54%, and that was because we did not have enough hospital beds, operation theatres or frontline staff,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Glenties, the master of the National Maternity Hospital Rhona Mahony said the healthcare problems “stem from inadequate capacity, a dysfunctional infrastructure, disordered administration and funding and chronic underinvestment in people”.

She said every element of healthcare provision could not be afforded “so we must develop the concept of priority medicine and the provision of protected essential core services to all”.

“Without appropriate staff, services cannot be delivered. We must address the current deficit in frontline staff... To carry on as we are is simply not sustainable.”

HSE boss queries will to alter system

— Stephen Rogers

HSE director general Tony O’Brien said the country may never have a “truly operationally efficient” health system in the absence of a societal and political willingness to make hard choices.

He told MacGill Summer School in Glenties our health services construct is “outdated and not fit for purpose”. He referenced the aging population putting a greater strain on services; the need to shift from an acute hospital to a more primary care focus; a move from “hospital-centric” treatment toward centres of excellence.

“In the absence of a collective societal and political willingness to make some of the hard choices required for change — I question whether it is possible that we can ever achieve a health system that can be truly operationally efficient, that can provide effective value for money, and can provide a world-class care in health delivery and outcomes.”


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