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Waiting List Targets Cannot be Achieved unless Government Fast-Track Planned Additional Hospital Capacity

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has warned that the government’s waiting list reduction targets for 2024 cannot be achieved unless the opening of planned additional hospital capacity is fast-tracked by the government. Responding to the publication of the Waiting List Action Plan for 2024, the IHCA said that addressing the severe capacity deficits in the public health service, together with the shortage of consultants in post, are the key requirements to reducing waiting lists on a sustainable basis.

The Association also said that the shocking acceptance contained in the Action Plan that the inpatient and day case waiting list is predicted to increase to a staggering 96,800 by the end of 2024 should be a wake-up call to the government to urgently address these twin deficits of a shortage of consultants and a lack of sufficient public hospital capacity.

The 2024 Action Plan has set a target to reduce waiting lists for appointments and hospital treatment by almost 6% (-39,300) by the end of December compared with the number waiting at the start of the year. However, the first two months of 2024 alone have seen the three main waiting lists increase by over 18,000, or 3%.

Commenting on the 2024 Waiting List Action Plan, IHCA President Prof Rob Landers said “While we welcome any plan which aims to cut these unacceptably long waiting lists and allow patients access to the care they require, we are urging the Government to follow through on commitments which have already been made. This includes the opening of the 1,500 additional rapid-build beds, the promised six surgical hubs and the long-awaited four elective hospitals.

“Around 5,000 additional hospital beds are needed by 2030 alongside a total of at least an additional 2,000 permanent consultants to treat patients in a timely manner, bring down unacceptable waiting lists and address population and demand changes.

“Significant waiting list reduction targets are unlikely to be met by the end of 2024 or indeed by the end of the decade unless the government urgently addresses the severe lack of public hospital capacity and Consultant vacancies.

“Ireland also has one of the lowest number of hospital consultants in the OECD, at approximately half the OECD average. It is abundantly clear that our acute hospital and mental health services will increasingly fail our patients due to the 900 approved permanent consultant posts that cannot be filled as needed. As a consequence of these vacant and temporarily filled posts, the vast majority of consultants are already working in excess of their contracted hours.”

(Source: ICHA.ie)

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