“Due to these waiting lists we need to double the number of surgeons from 17 to 36,” said Michael Earley, the first Irish president of the British Association of Plastic Surgeons.
Mr Earley said such delays often added to the hardship for people requiring treatment as their condition, in many cases, became progressively worse.
Mr Earley was speaking at the association’s summer meeting which is being held in Dublin for the first time this week.
A consultant at the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street and Mater Hospital, Dublin, Mr Earley said there was no shortage of interest from medical professionals to move into such a technically demanding area of surgery.
He described how plastic surgery played an important role in restoring appearances, functions and psychological well-being inpatients who had suffered accidents, cancers and congenital deformities.
“Around 50% of the work carried out by the country’s 17 plastic and reconstructive surgeons relates to trauma, including hand and facial injuries, skin loss, burns and damage to nerves and tendons,” he explained.
Plastic surgery is only available in Dublin, Cork and Galway where over 20,600 procedures were carried out between 2001-2002.
However, Mr Earley said there was a need for an expansion of clinics and day surgeries to other parts of the country.
Mr Earley expressed a preference for an increase in treatment available through the public health service rather than have patients needing to seek treatment in private clinics under the National Treatment Purchase Fund because of delays. He also advised people considering going to commercially-run clinics for procedures to ensure that such operations were necessary.
He said there was need for greater controls on standards and the availability of post-operational treatment in such clinics.
Mr Earley also expressed concern that the portrayal of plastic surgery in TV programmes like Sky’s Nip/Tuck had trivialised such a sensitive area of medicine.