IHCA appeals to Minister Harris in consultant talks

by Keavy O'Sullivan

In recent talks with Minister for Health Simon Harris (FG), the Irish Hospital Consultant Association have appealed for him to ‘put politics aside and patients first’. They presented a number of workable solutions to address the overwhelming public hospital capacity deficits causing unacceptable waiting lists and trolley crisis. 

The IHCA represents over 95% of Ireland’s hospital consultants, and urged the Minister to take decisive action to immediately end consultant pay discrimination, saying ‘it would be a game-changer in attracting consultants to work in public hospitals, and ensuring patients can access hospital care when they need it’.

According to consultants, there are over 500 unfilled permanent hospital consultant posts across Ireland’s public hospitals. These vacancies are recognised as the root cause of the long waiting times now experienced by patients, and the trolley crisis in public hospitals.

The IHCA identified the 2012 decision of the then Fine Gael Minister for Health Dr James Reilly regarding consultant pay as a contributing factor to today’s crisis, saying that ‘Patients have endured the adverse and severe impact of the Government’s 2012 decision, which has driven hospital consultants away from our public hospitals to practise abroad and in private hospitals.’

The IHCA representatives have also called on Minister Harris and the current Fine Gael government to open up further public hospital beds and bring forward the delivery of additional beds from 2030 to 2025, which were promised under both the HSE Capacity Review 2018 and the National Development Plan; to introduce and resource a maximum waiting time of four hours for patients presenting at Emergency Departments to be admitted, discharged, or transferred; and to introduce and resource a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks following a GP referral for consultant outpatient appointments and inpatient/day-care public hospital treatments.

Speaking about the face-to-face talks more generally, Dr. O’Hanlon said: “Front line hospital consultants appealed to Minister Harris to put politics aside and patients first, by committing to effective targets to deliver timely care to patients which at least match those in the NHS.

“The delivery of effective targets will require the implementation of practical workable solutions that the IHCA has recommended for years.”

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