There are around 60 consultant vacancies at Cork University Hospital (CUH), while 21 consultants have resigned their posts in the past two-to-three years, according to a leading consultant rheumatologist based at the hospital.
President of the Irish Society for Rheumatology (ISR) Dr Sinéad Harney told the Medical Independent (MI) there was a “critical shortage” of rheumatologists in the country.
Speaking to MI in advance of the ISR autumn meeting, Dr Harney said the waiting list for routine rheumatology appointments at CUH was 33 months, with the urgent waiting list at nine months.
As well as a shortage of rheumatologists, Dr Harney emphasised that waiting lists were impacted by the general medicine commitment required of many rheumatologists across the country.
Due to the lengthy waits to be seen, some patients’ joints are irreparably damaged, according to Dr Harney.
“Locally, we have got somebody to help us with our general medicine for the next six months, so that is a minor win. But to get any sort of decent resources is a struggle, whereas if you were in industry and you were the most expensively-paid person, then they wouldn’t have you doing your own secretarial work, booking your own clinics and trying to sort your own waiting lists; they would be facilitating you, but here and elsewhere in the country, they don’t.”
Dr Harney also referred to lack of administrative support for clinical nurse specialists and advanced nurse practitioners in rheumatology.
In regard to consultants who have left CUH in recent years, Dr Harney said most were now working in private practice in Ireland.
MI was awaiting comment from South/South West Hospital Group at press time.