A social media campaign being launched today by hospital consultants highlights the increasing waiting times for outpatient appointments.
Currently, more than 550,000 patients are waiting to see a consultant for an outpatient appointment and a further 70,000 who have been assessed by a consultant are awaiting follow-on treatment.
The #CareCantWait campaign that the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) will run over the coming months will emphasise the impact of long waiting times on patients and the need to address the consultant “brain drain”.
IHCA vice president Laura Durcan said that disease does not operate to a schedule; the longer the wait, the more likely it is that a sick patient’s health would deteriorate further.
While the commissioning of an additional 2,600 acute hospital beds would take more than a decade according to existing plans, other improvements could be implemented to reduce waiting lists.
“The acute and growing shortage of consultants is impacting on patient access to care and adding to the waiting times experienced by patients,” said Dr Durcan.
“We are calling on the Government to sit down with the IHCA and work with us to end the brain drain and ensure that Ireland is an attractive place to have a medical career.
“Until this problem is resolved our patients will continue to be most impacted by these issues,” said Dr Durcan, consultant rheumatologist and campaign spokesperson.
The IHCA points out that Ireland has the lowest level in the EU of consultants working in the health service. It is 43% below the EU average.
Many of the clinical areas with the highest number level of consultant shortages and unfilled posts are also those with the largest number of patients waiting to see a consultant.
There are more than 44,000 people waiting for an initial appointment with a dermatologist.
Ireland has only a third of the number of consultants needed in this area of medical care.
There are 23,000 adults and 5,000 children waiting to see a cardiologist. Ireland has only 25% of cardiologists compared with the EU average.
More than 21,000 patients are waiting to see a neurologist and more than 5,000 have been waiting for more than a year and a half. Ireland has only a quarter of the number it needs.
There are more than 16,000 patients waiting to see a respiratory consultant because the number of specialists is only a third of the number required.
Throughout the campaign, the public and those working in healthcare will be encouraged to support the IHCA’s call for the Government to address consultant shortages across the health services.