President of the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association (IHCA) Professor Alan Irvine has projected that there will be one million people on hospital waiting lists by the end of the year.
Responding to the projections, Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton said that the Cabinet has given Health Minister Stephen Donnelly authorisation to re-allocate funding from areas of underspend in an attempt to reduce waiting lists at hospitals.
Professor Irvine spoke on RTÉ’s Katie Hannon programme, stating that a “massive upscaling of capacity” is urgently needed to address the current situation.
He stated that there are over 700 empty consultant posts and that Ireland has the lowest number of hospital beds in Europe.
He stated that a specialist post needs to be filled and supported with beds, theatres, outpatients clinics, administrative support and healthcare professionals so that they can provide ‘timely and safe care’.
Both Naughton and Donnelly are also putting in place a waiting list task force for individual hospitals to reduce waiting times.
According to Irvine, the waiting lists have been built up over a decade and have resulted from the displacement of care as a result of Covid-19 and the cyberattack on the HSE.
He added that it’s expected that 500,000 referrals will be received this year and only 390,000 will be seen which “reflects that the capacity is not meeting the demand”.
He said that it would take 14 years to clear the backlog if the health service was running at 105% of pre-pandemic levels.
Irvine highlighted the difficulties associated with recruiting and retraining consultants, stating that Ireland “is not an attractive option for trainees” and that 90% of them are considering not working for the public system.
Describing the waiting times as “scandalous”, Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane said that many people who are going to emergency departments could be assessed outside of the hospital.
Saying that his party wants to help build a healthcare system that attracts people to work there, Cullinane said that Sinn Féin’s alternative budget allocates €1.4 billion to health spending this year.
IMAGE – Stephen Donnelly (via Twitter)/”Two nurses transporting a bed down a hospital corridor” is licensed under CC BY 4.0