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Government must prepare for ‘winter like no other’, says new IHCA President as waiting lists increase

By Dermot - 11th Sep 2020 | 5 views

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has warned health leaders that action must be taken now to address hospital capacity deficits before the winter months.

A total of 72,695 people have now been added to various National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) waiting lists in 2020, as the latest figures (for August 2020) show:

  • 841,459 people on some form of NTPF waiting list in August, an increase of 9,016 (one per cent) in one month and 72,695 (9.5 per cent) since the start of the year;
  • 610,996 outpatients nationally are waiting to be seen by a consultant, an increase of 9,634 (1.6 per cent) on July’s figures and 57,562 (10.4 per cent) during 2020;
  • 77,620 now wating for inpatient/day case treatment, an increase of 11,057 (16.6 per cent) since the start of 2020; with
  • 89 per cent (+8,127) more patients now waiting over 12 months for inpatient/day case treatment compared with the start of the year.

The latest waiting list figures come as the reports of growing trolley figures appear across the media, with over 200 admitted patients left waiting on a trolley for a hospital bed on Tuesday of this week – a worrying trend this early in September, according to the IHCA.

With growing concerns over a potential second wave of Covid-19 cases, consultants say that putting in place a clear plan containing practical, workable solutions to provide timely care to patients in Ireland’s public acute hospitals is critical and must be done immediately.

The IHCA has urged the HSE and Department of Health to address the ongoing consultant and capacity shortages in order to create the additional frontline capacity required to care for all patients over the coming months.

Commenting on today’s waiting list figures, newly-elected IHCA President, Prof Alan Irvine, said:

“This latest rise in patient waiting times comes the same day NPHET warns of the high likelihood of insufficient staffing levels to respond to service demands.

“The persistent lack of clear action from the HSE and Department of Health to outline steps being taken to brace this country’s health service for the coming months is a cause for concern. We still do not have a winter plan and it remains unclear what increased public hospital capacity will be provided.

“We know what the problems are, and we know what it takes to fix them: fill the 500 vacant permanent consultant posts, open up the required number of beds and ensure they are resourced and staffed. Yet there is no clear commitment to doing this from the HSE or Government.

“Our health service, hospital management and clinical teams need fully funded plans in place with cross government backing to fill the vacant consultant posts and increase hospital capacity.

“If the Government adopts the same approach as other years and significantly increased capacity is not urgently provided to prepare for the extraordinary winter surge due to Covid-19 and other demand increases, then it will simply be too late.”

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