Hospitals under pressure as 350 consultant posts vacant
Fianna Fail says unfilled positions are having a 'detrimental effect' on the healthcare system
The true scale of the crisis facing the healthcare system is revealed in worrying new HSE figures which show there are at least 350 vital hospital consultant posts lying vacant.
The impact of the vacancies is being felt right across the country but hospitals in Waterford, Cork and Kerry are the worst affected with 67 consultancy positions currently unfilled.
In University of Limerick Hospital, alone, there are 25 out 155 consultant positions vacant.
There are at least 24 senior consultancy jobs unfilled in the HSE's Children's Hospital Group - this includes Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin and Temple Street Children's Hospital. The figures show 10 of these unfilled roles are crucial paediatric consultant positions. The state of the country's mental health services are also laid bare in the new figures which show there are 65 unfilled psychiatry consultant positions.
There are 43 vacancies in the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group which includes the Coombe Hospital, St James's Hospital, Tallaght, Portlaoise Hospital and Naas General Hospital.
There are also 43 vacancies in the Ireland East Hospitals Group which includes St Vincent's University Hospital, the National Maternity Hospital, Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin, St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny and Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar.
Overall, the figures provided to Fianna Fail show that, of 3,155 approved consultant posts, some 349 are vacant.
The party's Mental Health spokesperson James Browne said the figures are "stark evidence" of the strain the health services are under in terms of recruitment and retention.
"To have one in nine positions vacant can only have a detrimental effect on the provision of health care and it is crucial the Government address the matter. Of course, these figures only cover consultant vacancies. The HSE was unable to provide up-to-date figures for vacancies amongst other medical staff posts," Mr Browne said.
"Some specialities are worse affected than others, of course. Of particular concern to me, as my party's Mental Health spokesperson, is the number of unfilled psychiatrist posts with 65 out of 478 approved positions vacant. These are not just posts in acute hospitals but also in the community. In Cork and Kerry almost one in five community psychiatric posts are vacant," he added.
"Unsurprisingly the hospital groups that suffer the worst overcrowding also record the highest proportion of vacancies. The South/South West Group has 67 (of 489) posts unfilled and in the Limerick group 25 of 155 positions are vacant."
Last week, Irish Hospital Consultants Association secretary general Martin Varley said the vacancies are undermining the quality of care being provided to the public. "It is contributing to growing waiting lists for consultant outpatient appointments, and is over-stretching the capacity of hospitals to provide the type of care that patients need and deserve," he said.
The Irish Medical Organisation has previously said the country needs an extra 1,400 consultants to deal with growing demands on the health service.