Campaign aims to force Government to fill 500 vacant consultant roles
The gruelling wait for surgery or an outpatient appointment and the failure to fill one in five consultant posts are the target of a social-media campaign launched today.
#CareCantWait is aimed at linking the failure to recruit specialists to fill around 500 consultant posts to the huge numbers of patients on outpatient and surgical queues.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said the campaign would run over the next number of months, emphasising the impact of long waiting times on patients, while encouraging patients, the public and those working in healthcare to support its call for Government action to address consultant shortages.
More than 550,000 patients were waiting to see a consultant for an outpatient appointment, with a further 70,000 assessed by a consultant awaiting follow-on treatment.
A spokeswoman said: "The lack of access and increasing wait times are being exacerbated by the fact almost one in five permanent consultant posts is unfilled or filled by temporary appointments.
"Added to this, Ireland has the lowest level in the EU of consultants working in our health service - 43pc below the EU average. Unsurprisingly, many of the clinical areas with the highest number of consultant shortages and unfilled posts are those with the largest numbers of patients waiting to see a consultant."
The association said 44,000 people were waiting for an initial appointment with a dermatologist. Ireland has only one-third the numbers of consultants it needs in this area.
Some 23,000 adults are waiting for an outpatient appointment and a further 5,000-plus children are waiting to see a cardiologist. Ireland has only 25pc of cardiologists compared with the EU average. And more than 21,000 are waiting to see a neurologist, with over 5,000 waiting longer than 18 months. Ireland has only a quarter of the number of specialists it needs.
The figures come as it also emerged 4,000 patients aged over 75 had to wait on A&E trolleys for more than 24 hours in the first three months.
IHCA vice president Dr Laura Durcan, a consultant rheumatologist, said: "Our campaign focuses on the hundreds of thousands of patients, and their families and communities, who cannot wait any longer to access care.
"Disease does not operate to a schedule. The longer the wait, the more likely a sick patient's health will deteriorate further. The growing shortage of consultants is impacting on patient access to care."