Op delays for patients suffering from neck tumours
Some cancer patients who have been diagnosed with a tumour in their neck are having to wait weeks for surgery because of a lack of specialists, doctors have warned.
Dr Clive Kilgallen, a pathologist in Sligo Hospital, said the health service needs more ear, nose and throat surgeons to perform the procedures.
If patients' surgery is delayed the tumour is at risk of "getting bigger", he warned.
Dr Kilgallen, chairman of the consultants' committee in the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), was speaking at the annual meeting of the doctors' union in Killarney.
He echoed warnings by new IMO president Dr Peadar Gilligan that hospitals will be even more bereft of key specialists if restrictions are imposed on their private practice.
The proposal in the Sláintecare future blueprint for the health service is to phase out permission for consultants to treat fee-paying patients in public hospitals.
Dr Gilligan, an emergency consultant in Beaumont Hospital, predicted this would drive away much-needed surgeons in areas like orthopaedics as well as vital cardiologists and gastroenterologists who are sought after globally.
It could compound the recruitment problems Ireland already faces in getting consultants, he warned.
Insured patients would have to go to private hospitals for care, but there are currently not enough of these facilities to cope with this volume of care.
More full-time consultants are taking the unprecedented decision to resign from Irish hospitals and work abroad while others are taking early retirement.
Dr Gilligan revealed the average waiting time for a bed endured by a patient on a trolley in a Dublin A&E was now 14 hours.
He said the plan to provide 2,590 beds to ease overcrowding was not enough.
"We need 7,000 beds and the associated staffing levels and we need to get started on producing this capacity in our system now," warned Dr Gilligan, who was among the doctors in the frontline of nightmare levels of congestion this winter.
Health Minister Simon Harris, who promised talks on a new contract for GPs will get under way in weeks, did not say how much funding the Government is to invest in providing more services for patients in the community.
The size of the chequebook he receives will be crucial to the negotiations, which look set to be long and fractious.
He told GPs: "I believe we can work together to ensure general practice is a sustainable and rewarding career choice, while also better meeting the needs of patients."
Meanwhile, all pregnant women should be offered the flu and whooping cough vaccine for free, GPs have urged.
Doctors attending the union conference backed a motion urging the IMO to enter into talks with the Department of Health to extend the scheme to women outside of those with a medical card.
Dr Pascal O'Dea said it was time to resource the better protection of pregnant women.
The uptake of both vaccines in pregnant women needed to improve, the conference was told.