The fact that almost 58,000 people are now waiting for care across hospitals in the Mid-West has been condemned as a “national disgrace” by a local lobby group.
The Mid-West Hospital Campaign (MWHC) has claimed removing 24-hour casualty cover from Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals in April 2009 has resulted in 58,774 people waiting for public hospital inpatient/day treatment, GI endoscopies or an outpatient appointment with a consultant throughout the region.
New figures released by the HSE confirm that one in every three (33%) approved permanent Hospital Consultant posts in the UL Hospitals’ Group are either vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis – an all-time high 68 out of 206 approved Consultant posts3 – an increase of 16 posts not filled as needed since November 2020.
Outpatient waiting lists at hospitals in the Mid-West region have almost doubled, with a 94% hike since 2015.
The number of ‘long waiters’ on the list to be assessed by a consultant has increased five-fold to almost 19,000 in past seven years.
At least 200 additional beds and significantly increased operating theatre facilities needed in ULHG to bring capacity in line with other Model 4 hospitals.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has warned that the ongoing shortage of hospital consultants across many specialities in the Mid-West and severe hospital capacity deficits are preventing patients from accessing the timely, high-quality medical and surgical care they need and contributing massively to unacceptable waiting lists in the region.
IHCA President Prof Alan Irvine said meeting the healthcare needs of the 58,700 people currently waiting to be assessed or treated by a consultant will only be possible by urgently filling the one in three permanent approved Consultant posts that are currently unfilled and rapidly expanding the region’s hospital beds and operating theatres.
Some of the longest waiting lists across the group are for routine, planned care, particularly in Orthopaedics, ENT, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Neurology, Urology, Gynaecology and Cardiology, as well as General Surgery.
Deputy Michael McNamara said he has been making representations for one constituent who has been waiting for four years for cataract treatment.
Most of the constituents who have contacted his office are waiting 12 to 18 months approx. Noeleen Moran of the MWHC warned the chronic recruitment and retention crisis is not confined to consultants after a recent HIQA inspection found “nurse staffing levels in the emergency department were insufficient to meet the needs of the people attending”.
Noeleen Moran of MWHC said the downgrading of Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s had resulted in a shortage of beds and operating theatres, which never seems to be a problem in private hospitals.
“Proper affordable healthcare for all must remain the priority. The reopening of Ennis Emergency Department would provide more beds and operating capacity. There is far too much emphasis being placed on resolving this crisis in University Hospital Limerick alone.
Describing the waiting lists as “grim”, Councillor Cillian Murphy called on the HSE to establish why it can’t get people to fill well paid permanent jobs and take immediate action on their findings.
The HSE West Forum member proposed the wide variety of leisure activities such as surfing, swimming, scenic cycling and walking routes such also be advertised in advertisements for new medical appointments.
The UL Hospitals’ Group said recruitment of extra consultants is a priority to improve hospital waiting lists, along with the recruitment of additional NCHDs, Advanced Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Extended Scope Physiotherapists and Clerical/Admin Staff Grades.