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“I’m sorry to paint such a dismal overview of our current health system and it gives me no pleasure to do so, but that is where we find ourselves today,” Dr O’Hanlon told delegates.
In a well-received speech that focused on capacity in acute hospitals, pay and waiting lists, Dr O’Hanlon said 40,000 elective surgeries were cancelled in 2016.
“The number of elective but essential surgeries and procedures in public hospitals has declined in the five years to 2017 by 53 per cent,” said Mr O’Hanlon.
“It is common for elective surgeries to be cancelled on the day of surgery due to inpatient beds being needed to accommodate emergency admissions. IHCA members in Tallaght Hospital report cancellations of up to two-thirds of elective cases, on the day of surgery at busy times.
“There are approximately 500 approved consultant posts, or approaching 20 per cent of the total, which cannot be filled on a permanent basis. This means that we have an unprecedented number of unfilled, approved permanent posts. The root cause of this problem is the discriminatory salary scale imposed on new-entrant consultants appointed since October 2012. The obvious solution is full pay parity for new-entrant consultants.”
Mr O’Hanlon added that “the failure to fill vacant posts on a permanent basis represents a false economy from a financial perspective and in terms of patient care, with steeply increasing waiting lists due to a shortage of consultants and growing medical agency costs, which exceed €100 million per annum.”
In terms of the health of the IHCA itself, Secretary General Martin Varley said that membership had increased again.
“Our membership has gone up significantly year-on-year, particularly this year,” said Mr Varley. “Last year, we had 2,655 members, and this year 2,881.”
Mr Varley put the increase down to the interest and activism of younger consultants and new-entrant consultants energised by the pay discrimination issue.