4 January 2023
By Elaine Murphy
“To move away from this constant wheel of crises, the Government must put in place the capacity expansion that is needed and the HSE must empower hospitals and community services to make decisions and take the actions needed to provide timely and safe care to their patients.”
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has expressed its concern over the continued pressures being faced by Ireland’s acute hospital services as extreme levels of overcrowding in our emergency departments and un-safe capacity limits hit record new highs.
Commenting, a spokesperson for the IHCA said:
“The Irish health service is once again the focus of public, political and media attention. The level of coverage of individual and collective experiences from within our hospitals over the past number of weeks is only comparable to that of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not inconceivable that we could see 1,000 admitted patients being treated on trolleys on a single day in the weeks ahead.
“Public hospital staff are working tirelessly attempting to provide appropriate levels of care to patients. Consultants are on call 24/7, often practising over and above recommended levels, but the reality is there simply aren’t enough of us to meet increased demand. We are still working with 40% less Consultant staffing in Ireland, compared to the EU average.
“What compounds this further is the failure of Government to put in place bed and staffing commitments dating back years. When Consultants do eventually get to see patients, we face restricted care flows due to inadequate bed and theatre capacity, and required staffing levels.
“The Winter Plan 2022/23 committed to appointing 51 additional Emergency Medicine Consultants, yet as we hit the peak of winter illness, none of these have been appointed as yet on a permanent basis, with just approximately 20 locum Consultants in place. This is not surprising given that it took on average 9 months to fill a vacant Consultant post in 2022.
“In addition, the Department of Health has no credible plan to urgently put in place the 1,400 additional public hospital beds that need to be opened more speedily than anticipated in what is an out-of-date 2018 Capacity Review.
“As a result, those of us on the ground in hospitals and delivering care in the community are consistently left to firefight for ourselves with the limited and overstretched resources we have.
“In the few hospitals which aren’t seeing the same level of severe pressures as others, we know that’s down to effective local decision-making, the delivery of capacity and the recruitment of additional Consultants.
“We are in the midst of yet another public hospital crisis and the moral injury caused is extremely damaging at this stage. What must bring about the desperate needed additional capacity at a much faster pace. Increased capacity, physical infrastructure and facilities must be commissioned and funded by the Government and HSE urgently to ensure that public hospital services can be maintained and not allowed to deteriorate further.
“The HSE’s National Service Plan 2023 is now due and must be published as soon as possible, taking all this into consideration. To move away from this constant wheel of crises, the Government must put in place the capacity expansion that is needed and the HSE must empower hospitals and community services to make decisions and take the actions needed to provide timely and safe care to their patients.”