Up to 50 new hospital consultants are to be appointed to emergency departments in a fresh effort to relieve blockages and cut trolley numbers ahead of winter.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly plans a 40 per cent increase in the number of emergency department (ED) consultants within months, and at least a doubling of numbers in the following years.
According to The Irish Times, Mr Donnelly has told the HSE to fast-track the appointments because of what he describes as the “multiple layers and delays” in the traditional process for appointing consultants.
Mr Donnelly told the HSE last April to come up with “immediate actions” to alleviate hospital ED overcrowding. In June he wrote again to HSE chief executive Paul Reid seeking information on the actions proposed to deal with “systemic issues”, as well as a site-by-site analysis of the problems at particular hospitals.
The new posts will be especially targeted at under-pressure ED sites, Mr Donnelly told The Irish Times on Thursday night. This is expected to include University Hospital Limerick and University Hospital Galway.
“Patients and staff need to see real change,” the Minister said. “I asked the HSE to develop a comprehensive site-by-site plan, and have worked closely with the executive and officials in my department on it.
“Building up our workforce will form a vital component of this plan, which will include more consultants in emergency medicine, as well as more nurses and more health and social care professionals.”
There are at present 110 whole-time equivalent consultant posts in emergency medicine, so the proposed increase represents a near 40 per cent expansion in staffing.
About 150,000 people now work in the health service, including almost 15,000 recruited since early 2020.