Friday, November 11, 2022

Fiachra Gallagher

Almost 98,000 children are on some form of hospital waiting list, newly released figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show.

In all, there are currently 897,300 on a hospital waiting list in this country.

Of the 97,700 children on waiting lists, one in four have been on their respective list for over a year.

An additional 8,000 children are awaiting diagnostic scans at the Dublin children’s hospitals. These numbers are not included in the NTPF’s figures.

An extra 21 children have been added to waiting lists for scoliosis related surgeries since the beginning of 2022.

Following the release of the figures, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) expressed concern at the number of children on waiting lists.

The association said an “extreme” shortage in consultants — due to the difficulty in filling permanent Consultant posts — and long-running capacity issues are the “root causes” of the long waiting lists.

There are currently 918 unfiled permanent consultant positions across the country, a new record.

The association noted that Government’s €350 million Waiting List Action Plan was launched with the aim of reducing waiting lists by 18 per cent by the end of this year. Instead, the number of children on waiting lists has increased by 2 per cent since the beginning of the year.

The association warned that waiting lists are expected to get longer for a variety of reasons, including an increase in paediatric presentations to Emergency Departments at CHI at Temple Street, Crumlin, Connolly and Tallaght, currently averaging at 600 a day.

The association said that the waiting times may impact negatively on the lives of many children, “hampering their development and quality of life and potentially their future health outcomes”.

IHCA President Professor Robert Landers said the wait times were resulting in thousands of children not getting the care they need “in a timely way”.

“Every single number is an individual child who could be experiencing pain, and a family that may be suffering psychological distress at not knowing when their child will be able to receive treatment. This is a wholly unacceptable situation.

“Cancelling scheduled care for children and adults has become a go-to solution over successive winters, but this simply isn’t sustainable with over 897,000 people on a hospital waiting list.

“As Consultants, we need and want sustainable solutions to help alleviate this distress and provide the care these children so desperately need.

“However, we have a chronic recruitment and retention crisis that is not being addressed urgently enough. This is evident from the fact that a record 918 approved Consultant posts nationally are either absolutely vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis.

“It is imperative these vacant Consultant posts are filled if we are to effectively address the record hospital waiting lists. To achieve that, the Government must reach an agreement with the Association on a new Consultant contract that is attractive for our existing Consultants, our Consultants in training and the new medical talent we need to attract into permanent posts,” he said.

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