He told delegates that waiting lists for surgery in the south of the country could mean some patients lose their vision.
“The lack of capacity in our public hospitals and the shortage of consultants is damaging patient care and is having a catastrophic impact on our health service,” said Dr O’Hanlon.
Some of the examples highlighted by Dr O’Hanlon included the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, where he said there are over 6,500 new patients waiting to see a consultant urologist. He added that St James’s Hospital in Dublin has advertised a consultant urologist post twice and failed to recruit.
In Cork, in the eye surgery services, around 6,000 patients are awaiting outpatient reviews. Consultants are concerned that some patients will lose vision irreversibly as a result of the delays, he warned.
The IHCA President described a “distinct lack of urgency” in providing the extra beds and other hospital facilities that the “Government has committed to and provided funding for in the National Development Plan published earlier this year”. He said these beds and facilities are needed without delay.
“Patients are deteriorating on lengthy waiting lists and the State is putting in place sticking-plaster solutions of outsourcing through NTPF or facilitating patients to travel abroad for operations that have for decades been provided in our public hospitals,” said Dr O’Hanlon.
“There is clearly an urgent need for a multi-annual plan committing precisely when the 2,600 additional acute hospital beds will be put in place so that patients on trolleys and awaiting treatment can be provided an appropriate standard of care.
“Our population is growing at a rate five times higher than the EU average and this has significant implications for our health service. We need to plan for the future and put in place the public hospital capacity that can cater for actual demand for acute care and not ignore predictable growth.