Patients treated by 73 'consultants' who do not have specialist training
There are 73 doctors working as consultants in hospitals who do not have full specialist training.
These doctors are fully qualified medics, many with years of experience, but they are not on the specialist Medical Council register, which signals they have completed higher training.
The hiring of these doctors in consultant posts has been linked to the failure of hospitals to attract full-time staff.
The figures reveal that the highest number are in South Tipperary Hospital where they are filling nine of its 27 doctors' posts.
This equates to "one in three" of its doctors, according to Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher - who obtained the figures in a parliamentary reply.
Mr Kelleher said: "In Cavan Hospital, six out of 33 fall into the same category. In Kerry, it's six out of 40.
"Many people quite rightly believe that it is unacceptable that doctors who do not have the essential specialist training, skills and expertise should be treating patients as consultants in acute hospitals around the country.
"All patients should be entitled to expect that when they are treated it should be by fully qualified professional.
"The HSE and our hospitals have a duty of care to ensure this."
While the national number of consultant roles being filled by non-specialist doctors is 3pc, some hospitals, mainly outside of the capital, have proportionately a lot more than this.
The figures show that St James's Hospital, Dublin, Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, and Tallaght Hospital have a total of eight non-specialist medics out of a very large workforce of consultants.
Doctors' organisations have blamed pay and conditions for making Irish hospitals unattractive to applicants for senior posts.
Hundreds of jobs have not been able to attract enough candidates in recent years and in some cases the posts have not attracted any applicants.
Hospitals would not be able to function if they did not hire the doctors without full specialist training.
However, it has led to concerns about potential risks to patient safety.
Meanwhile, the trolley crisis shows no signs of improving.
There were 544 patients waiting for a bed across the country yesterday morning.
Some 45 of these were in South Tipperary Hospital, while University Hospital Limerick had run out of beds for 62 patients.
Since the start of this winter, 170 additional beds haven been opened nationally but around 90 are closed.
Health Minister Simon Harris said the number of consultants increased by 109 in the 12 months ending December 2017 to 2,971 whole-time equivalents, and by 415 in the four years since December 2013.
The number of junior doctors had risen by 270 in 2017 to 6,331 and by 1,323 in the four years since December 2013.
The minister said the number of nurses and midwives went up by 942 last year to 36,777 whole-time equivalents and by 2,599 in the four years since December 2013.
They include student nurses, whom the nurses' union insist do not count.
The target was to recruit another 1,224 nurses during 2017.
A shortage of nurses is still leading to bed closures.