WAITING lists for procedures at public hospitals could reach one million, the Clare-based Chairperson of the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, has been told.
At a meeting of the committee, Deputy Michael McNamara was told by Dr Anthony O’Connor, a member of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) consultants’ committee, that the delays in routine care in the public sector because of Covid-19 had created that possibility.
In response to a question from Deputy McNamara as to what waiting lists in the public health system were likely to be in at the end of the year, Dr O’Connor warned, “Unless we get the system back up and running for routine care in the public sector, we could be looking at one million people by November or December.”
Deputy McNamara also questioned Professor Alan Irvine of the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association (IHCA) about increasing non-Covid capacity at the so-called ‘Model 2’ hospitals, which includes the likes of Ennis General.
“Tier 2 hospitals are hugely important,” Professor Irvine replied. “They get through much less complex work and give people the best care closest to home when they can. They need to be supported too. However, as has been frequently referenced, we run the public system at a 90% plus capacity. Now with social distancing that will come down. The HSE has stated it wants it to be 80% maximum. Our throughputs are going to be shredded as a result. The IMO submission stated 50% which is probably about right. It is probably at the higher end if we are trying to go from 40-patient clinics to 15-patient or 20-patient clinics.”
Deputy McNamara queried Mr Martin Varley of the IHCA on the subject of getting consultants to work at smaller hospitals, saying it had been an issue.
“I am aware that in the Midwest, the Chairman’s own region, there were commentaries to the effect that consultants were not going out,” Mr Varley replied. “When I checked it, however, there was a long list of consultants who go out to practise. The bigger issue is that there are restrictions on the type of procedures they can do in Model 2 and Model 3 hospitals… There is a range of procedures one can carry but some of the rest have to be done in the centres with high levels of support.