Thursday 27 June 2019

Concern over SUH services downgrading

Consultant voices concern over non filling of posts due to pay rates

Sligo University Hospital
Sligo University Hospital

Paul Deering

A leading consultant at SligoUniversity Hospital has expressed fears over the future of acute services there due to the non filling of posts.

Dr Áine Burke, Consultant Haematologist has said the decision in October 2012 by the then Minister for Health to unilaterally reduce consultant salary rates by 30% for consultants employed beyond this date has had a severe impact.

The cut was in addition to the other salary cuts made to all public servants and to other public service new entrants she said and as a direct result hundreds of permanent consultant posts nationally remain unfilled, there is reduced competitiveness for posts, and the hiring of non-specialist locum doctors to specialist positions is a regular occurrence.

In a letter to all local election candidates, Ms Burke points out: "At Sligo University Hospital (SUH) the Dermatology service has advertised for an additional consultant on three different occasions in recent years and has failed to fill the post.

"There over 800 individuals on the waiting list to be seen by this service. An additional cardiologist post has also failed to fill and with the impending retirement of the current Cardiac specialist, there is concern over the ability to maintain this service within the hospital.

"A joint community and acute service Geriatrician post failed to attract any applicants last year.

"This is of particular concern as the region has an above-average proportion of the population classified as "elderly".

"A diabetes specialist (Endocrinologist) who was offered a post a number of months ago has yet to take up the job and there is a waiting list backlog of over 24 months to be seen by this service.

"What is really at stake now, for the population of Sligo and it's neighbouring counties, is the future of acute hospital medicine.

"If the current situation is allowed to continue it will result in the removal of such vital patient care by stealth due to inaction.

"The population of the SUH catchment area are fortunate to currently have these services but, as our more senior consultant colleagues approach retirement, their care is in jeopardy due to the failure to fill essential consultant posts.

"Sligo's political representatives need to ensure the full range of acute hospital services are developed by ensuring that the hospital is fully staffed by consultants who are on the specialist register.

"This is essential to avoid the hospital being downgraded.

"It is important that we do not find ourselves in a situation of progressing other new infrastructure services while at the same time the basic fabric of our acute hospital services is being undermined because we are no longer competitive in filling consultant posts.

"Pay parity must be restored urgently for Hospital Consultants.

"Only by doing so, can this internationally-mobile group of highly trained specialists be encouraged to return to, or stay in, Ireland, to serve and develop our health service.

"Establishment of pay parity across all consultants will address the recruitment and retention crisis, the hundreds of unfilled permanent consultant posts and the appointment of non-specialist doctors to consultant posts.

"As a result, access to see a specialist, waiting lists and waiting times, and overall standard and safety of care will improve."

Councillor Declan Bree said the contents of the letter was shocking and the Minister for Health needed to make a statement in regard to the future of acute services at the hospital.

"Her stark warning will be a wake-up call for those who have been turning a blind eye to the deterioration of services in the hospital." said Cllr Bree.

He added: "Dr Burke has made it abundantly clear that the issue here is not about a significant problem in one department - it is about a major crisis in our hospital and it is about the future of acute medicine in Sligo University Hospital.

"Despite being propped up by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael in government continues to prove that it is incapable of managing our health services." Cllr Bree declared.

Sligo Champion