Wednesday 23 October 2019

One million patients on public waiting lists, doctors warn

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Doctors have warned that there are more than one million patients on some form of public waiting list.

And many cancer patients are not being seen in the recommended time because of a shortage of doctors and beds, hospital consultants warned today.

The sickest patients in intensive care (ICU) are also being impacted because of a lack of specialists and facilities.

There are currently only 35 wholetime equivalent ICU consultant posts rather than the 82 which are required, the annual meeting of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association was told.

A new model of care for urology to deal with illnesses such as prostate cancer was launched in early September but it has little chance of success due to the chronic shortage of urologists, they claimed.

“We currently have 37 urologists across Ireland, one third of what New Zealand has, or only 15pcof the number in Denmark, both countries have similar populations to Ireland,” the meeting was told.

They warned Government’s National Mental Health Plan, ‘A Vision for Change’, first published in 2006 as a blueprint for the delivery of these services, remains hugely under resourced.

Children and adolescent services have about 50pc f the specialist staff they need; this also the case for older people’s mental health services. Adult services have 25pc less than is needed.

IHCA President Dr Donal O’Hanlon said: “The word crisis, when describing our health services, is now unfortunately an overused and devalued term, yet the truth is that all the indicators point to the fact that the delivery of our health services, year on year, is diminishing. The numbers of patients waiting are increasing and access is becoming more restricted. The IHCA’s #CARECANTWAIT campaign in recent months has been raising awareness as to the extent of this problem.

“Not only are hundreds of thousands of patients now waiting to see a consultant, but key national health care programmes in areas such as mental health, intensive care, maternity services, and cancer care are at risk of failure because of the consultant recruitment crisis.

“These programmes are nationwide and cut across our population whether by age or geographic location. Their origins lie in the recognised need for a better delivery of services to patients. However, the lack of specialist staff, particularly consultants, means that these programmes are at risk of not delivering the essential change and improvements, which was the basis of their development in the first place.

“Our public health services and acute hospitals are on life support and their condition shows no sign of improvement. We cannot allow this deterioration to continue. The message from consultants to Minister Harris today is to sit down with the IHCA now to begin the rehabilitation of our health services.”

IHCA Vice-President Dr Laura Durcan warned:“We are now just weeks away from the peak winter period when our acute public hospitals are characterised by overcrowding, trolleys, and long wait times.

“The ongoing consultant recruitment crisis, a feature of our health services for many years now, exacerbates the other capacity constraints in our system. We need to get all stakeholders around the table and fix this problem. Minister Harris must prioritise negotiations with the IHCA on this issue – care can’t wait.”

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