Only 36 (4%) of the 806 additional acute beds opened nationwide over the past two years were in Saolta Group hospitals, The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) reveals.
The group has warned that the chronic shortage of acute hospital bed capacity and Consultants across the Saolta University Health Care Group1 is resulting in excessively long waits for treatment. The resulting impact on patient outcomes, they said, will take years to remedy.
Letterkenny University Hospital has seen a 17% increase in its outpatient waiting lists since 2015. There are now 18,767 people waiting for an outpatient appointment.
The IHCA reports that the number of those forced to wait longer than a year for an outpatient appointment has increased three-fold throughout the Saolta Group over the past seven years to 51,044.
The group is calling for practical plans to expand hospital capacity and consultant staffing in the West and North-West, without delay.
IHCA President Prof Alan Irvine said: “Health service management must make good on promises to provide the extra Consultants, extra beds and extra hospital facilities so badly needed or we will be grappling with waiting lists in the region for the next decade.”
He added: “The Government needs to progress practical plans to expand hospital capacity and Consultant staffing in the West and North-West, and throughout the country, without delay. We have a chronic recruitment and retention crisis with 1 in 5 permanent hospital Consultant posts across the country and around 1 in 4 in the Saolta Group either vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis.
“Too often the health service management appears to be several plans away from a solution. This is no longer acceptable.
“They must make good on promises to provide the extra Consultants, extra beds and extra hospital facilities so badly needed to meet the healthcare needs of the 143,000 people in the region on NTPF waiting lists. Otherwise we will be grappling with these waiting lists for the next decade.
“Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly must also deliver on the ‘unambiguous commitment’ he made to end the pay inequity issue for all Consultants contracted since 2012, and it is essential a new Independent Chair is agreed with the IHCA to allow the resumption of Consultant contract discussions.
“These actions are crucial to attract and recruit the calibre and number of highly trained specialists needed to fill the over 700-plus permanent Consultant posts that are vacant or filled on a temporary basis across our hospitals and bring these waiting lists down.”