Hospital consultants concerned at ‘overwhelming’ capacity deficits

Hospital consultants have expressed concern about the Government’s complacency over addressing the “overwhelming” capacity deficits in the health service.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said it was worried that the reduction in the number of patients being treated on trolleys in the past week compared with the start of 2018 was being presented as something akin to significant progress.

The remarks were made following claims by Health Minister Simon Harris last week that there was a reduction in the number of patients on hospital trolleys.

It is unacceptable that, in a developed economy such as Ireland, hundreds of critically ill patients who are admitted to hospitals on a daily basis cannot be provided with a bed and are being treated on trolleys

IHCA president Dr Donal O’Hanlon said: “It is unacceptable that, in a developed economy such as Ireland, hundreds of critically ill patients who are admitted to hospitals on a daily basis cannot be provided with a bed and are being treated on trolleys.”

According to IHCA figures, in 2018 more than 108,000 ill patients were admitted to hospital but had to wait on a hospital trolley for an acute bed to become available.

“This is the highest number ever,” he said.

Mr O’Hanlon said the capacity issues in the country’s public hospitals were caused mainly by a severe shortage of hospital beds and the large number of permanent consultant posts that cannot be filled.

He said essential surgeries were being cancelled in many hospitals as a result.

In St James’s Hospital, Dublin, the largest cancer hospital in the country, four of the 13 operating theatres are closed because of bed and staff shortages.

At University Hospital Limerick, all elective surgical operations were stopped from December 21 to January 7.

Further extensive curtailment is likely after January 7 due to a severe bed shortage.

More than 70,000 patients remain on surgical waiting lists.

Dr O’Hanlon said that a realistic plan needed to be put in place to expand the public hospital bed capacity within five years, by 2,600 beds.

He claimed that the Government’s current policy regarding new consultants was driving highly trained specialists abroad and exacerbating the recruitment crisis.

He said it was unacceptable that Mr Harris and his officials had not engaged in discussions with the IHCA on a solution to the crisis, despite the commitment to do so two months ago.

He added that if the policy was not addressed now, by restoring parity for new consultants and international competitiveness in filling posts, it would cause irreparable damage that would affect patient care for decades.

- Press Association

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