Lack of staff, beds to trigger 'worst winter trolley crisis'
Hospital overcrowding is in danger of reaching record levels this winter as more patients endure long delays on trolleys before being moved to a ward, senior doctors warned yesterday.
Dr Donal O'Hanlon, president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA), warned: "Our acute hospital system is at breaking point due to a severe shortage of consultants and a lack of beds and other facilities.
"The quality and safety of patient care is deteriorating further due to persistent underinvestment."
He was speaking at the launch of IHCA's pre-Budget submission, calling on the Government to prioritise investment in medical staff and public hospital capacity deficits.
Some 500 consultant posts - accounting for one in five specialists - remain vacant or filled on a temporary basis, he added.
Talks are expected to begin this month on filling the gap which leaves new consultant recruits earning around €50,000 less than their long-serving colleagues.
However, the doctors' body looks set to resist any move to make increased productivity measures part of any new deal, saying they are already seeing more patients than colleagues in other countries.
Secretary general Martin Varley also rejected any plan to make all new recruits work only for public patients with no private practice. He said it was tried on two occasions, including 2011, and it failed.
Commenting on yesterday's capital plan, the IHCA said it only provides for 480 beds, or 100 fewer beds over each of the three years compared to National Development Plan promises.