Irish consultants warn healthcare crisis could draw out for "next decade" 1 year ago

Irish consultants warn healthcare crisis could draw out for "next decade"

They said that the pandemic has had “enormous implications” for “time-dependent” cancer care.

Irish consultants have warned that the healthcare crisis could draw out for the "next decade".

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The President of the Irish Hospitals Consultants Association is urging the Irish Government to "take action now" to prevent this from happening.

Professor Alan Irvine, President of the IHCA, said that the "solution is obvious", adding that Government must appoint more consultants "quickly" to prevent any further setbacks to the healthcare system.

“Treating cancer requires speed and efficiency. While Ireland has some of the best oncologists and doctors in the world, with the sheer number of vacant consultant posts there is only so much that they can achieve," he said on Monday.

“Waiting lists are lengthening. Smaller teams are being burnt out. Older consultants are retiring. Meanwhile, Ireland’s population is growing and aging, and the general incidence of cancers is increasing.

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"This is a deeply concerning and deeply volatile combination, but we needn’t stumble into health service collapse.

“The solution is obvious: we simply must appoint additional consultants, and quickly. Government action now will prevent the current pandemic healthcare crisis drawing out for the rest of the decade.”

Consultant medical oncologist Professor Seamus O’Reilly also said that the pandemic has had “enormous implications” for “time-dependent” cancer care.

Speaking on behalf of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) during European Week Against Cancer, Professor, and leading oncologist, Seamus O’Reilly said that the impact of the pandemic on the healthcare system has been unprecedented.

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“The Covid pandemic has impacted cancer services. Patients were concerned about coming into hospital. Services had to be curtailed due to social distancing and redeployment of staff,” he added.

“Our health service still has not returned to normal. This has enormous implications, and our concern as oncologists is of delayed cancer diagnosis occurring as a result.”

Even before the pandemic, cancer diagnoses were increasing at a rate of approximately 5% a year. Prof O’Reilly said that Covid would further impact that number.

“Cancer care is time-dependent, for example, colonoscopies are the gold standard of diagnosis for bowel cancers. Pre-pandemic, urgent referrals were seen within one month. Now, as a result of disruptions to service, 60% of referrals are waiting longer than three months," he said.

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According to the IHCA, 1 in 5 Hospital Consultant posts are not filled as needed, meaning patients must wait longer for diagnosis and treatment.

“Cancer care is about talent. It is important that our public health system has the ability to recruit and retain the highest talent available. We need an environment that’s supportive. We also need an environment where there is demonstrable equity of treatment for all of our staff," he continued.