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IHCA warns of impact of consultant shortages in Cork hospitals

By Reporter - 08th Feb 2023

Prof Robert Landers, IHCA President.

The IHCA has warned that the ongoing shortage of consultants across Cork hospitals and unaddressed bed capacity deficits is restricting patients from accessing timely, high-quality medical and surgical care and is contributing significantly to growing waiting list.

The six hospitals in the Cork region saw 2,300 additional people added to their waiting lists for outpatient appointments and procedures in 2022 – a increase of almost 3.2 per cent.

This compares with a modest reduction of five per cent (-7,800) in the number of people on the three main waiting lists under the Government’s Waiting List Action Plan across the wider South/South West Hospital Group (SSWHG), and a four per cent (-28,900) fall nationwide.

This means the plan missed its key targets in the region, according to the Association.

The IHCA analysis shows that Cork hospitals saw their waiting lists increase rather than decrease last year.

The six Cork hospitals are: Cork University Hospital; Cork University Maternity Hospital; Mercy University Hospital; South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital; Bantry General Hospital; and Mallow General Hospital.

Collectively these hospitals were 17,400 outpatient appointments and procedures away from meeting the 18 per cent reduction target for the end of 2022.

Currently more than 84,400 people are awaiting an outpatient appointment or inpatient/day case procedure across county Cork.

Consultants have raised their concerns that the combination of the unprecedented spike in hospital overcrowding, the longstanding deficits in hospital capacity and the record vacant consultant posts in the region could see the number of people on hospital waiting lists in the region reach new record highs in the months ahead.

Commenting on the figures for the Cork hospitals, IHCA President Prof Robert Landers said:

“The severe shortage of hospital consultants in our public health service in Cork and the southern region is the main contributor to the unacceptable delays in providing care to patients. We have a chronic recruitment and retention crisis with one in five permanent hospital Consultant posts not filled as need across Cork hospitals –  that’s 73 consultant posts either vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis. The figure nationally is over 900 unfilled consultant posts.

“This has led to a situation where we have more than 84,400 people awaiting an outpatient appointment or inpatient/day case procedure in hospitals across Cork and 140,000 in total across the South/ South-West. This is 40,000 more than the number waiting for care across the region eight years ago.

“Cork hospitals have seen the average number of available inpatient and day case beds increase by just 19 beds over the past three years to 1,478 beds. This equates to less than three per cent of the total number of additional hospital beds opened nationally since the start of the pandemic.  This is a shocking indictment of the lack of urgency on the part of the health service management to address the clear bed capacity deficits in the region, which would relieve some of the chronic hospital overcrowding recently witnessed.”

“However, reducing the number of people on waiting list to be treated or seen by a consultant in a Cork hospital will only be possible by filling the one in five permanent hospital posts that are currently unfilled and appointing significant additional consultants.”

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