Judge alarmed as 127 consultants not specially trained
One in every 23 doctors in consultant posts in Irish public hospitals does not have specialist training.
The hiring of these doctors has been criticised by Peter Kelly, president of the High Court Peter Kelly. He said it was scandalous and expressed concerns about the implications for patient safety.
The doctors, who have not done higher training, now make up 127 of the 2,977 consultant medics, the Oireachtas Health Committee was told.
The south and south-west hospital group - which includes hospitals in Cork, Kerry, Waterford and South Tipperary - employs 33 of these doctors followed by hospitals in the west where 23 are working.
There are three of these doctors in the children's hospital group.
In response to Sinn Féin TD Louise O'Reilly, the HSE said about 52 of these doctors were already employed before specialist training became mandatory in 2008.
Of these, 49 are employed in acute hospitals, one is in the blood service and two in mental health services.
The rest of the doctors have been taken on since 2008 and are on short-term contracts.
They are used to fill permanent vacancies pending the filling of a new or replacement consultant post on a permanent basis.
Hospitals have put in place monitoring arrangements appropriate to the doctor's practice.
They are also trying to incentivise doctors who were already in employment pre-2008 to apply for specialist training.
Hospitals are also trying to up-skill doctors employed since 2008 to get competence-based training.
Meanwhile, around 20,000 patients on public waiting lists will have surgery paid for this year but still be treated in a public hospital. This process is known as insourcing.
It is planned to do 800 hip and knee replacements and 5,000 cataract surgeries in public hospitals.
The hospitals involved include Cappagh Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, Roscommon Hospital and the Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin.
Another 50,000 patients on public waiting lists this year will have their treatment paid for in private hospitals.
This method of reducing waiting lists has been criticised by several public doctors who insist that private hospitals will cream off most of the funding at the expense of the public system.