Access to timely, quality care a priority for new IHCA leadership

IHCA: Seeking an end to the current consultant recruitment and retention crisis remains urgent

The new President of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has pledged to continue the association’s campaign for a health system that “delivers timely access to care for all patients”.

Prof Alan Irvine made the vow after his election to the head of the organisation which represents consultants was announced today (September 11).

Under his leadership, Prof Irvine said the IHCA would continue to advocate strongly for an “improved, sustainable health system” as the country struggled to cope with the pressures brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We fear that Ireland’s health system is lacking the necessary plans to enable the timely provision hospital care to those who need it in, what the Health Service Executive [HSE] itself has said will be, the most challenging winter we may have seen,” he said.

“As our hospitals face the unprecedented challenge of Covid-19 with already-strained resources, the IHCA will continue to challenge our health service leaders and advocate for practical, workable solutions for addressing Ireland’s healthcare capacity deficits.”

Prof Irvine added that seeking an end to the current consultant recruitment and retention crisis remained a priority of the IHCA.

But he feared there was lack of political will to resolve the situation, despite almost 500 permanent consultant posts in acute public hospitals being either vacant or filled on a temporary basis at present.

“We know what those 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,” Prof Irvine noted.

“Yet there is no clear commitment to doing this from the HSE or the Government.”

Thanking his predecessor, Dr Donal O’Hanlon, for his work on rolling out the #CareCantWait campaign, which focused on consultant recruitment, Prof Irvine said the IHCA would continue to hold the Government to account “for the fact that there are now almost 1 million people waiting for some form of hospital care in Ireland”.

“I look forward to engaging and working with all health stakeholders including Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and the Chief Executive of the HSE Paul Reid,” he said.

Dr Gabrielle Colleran, meanwhile, will continue as IHCA Vice President following the leadership ballots which are held every two years.

Commenting on her re-election, Dr Colleran said IHCA members were firmly committed to the #CareCantWait campaign and to driving change to deliver better health outcomes.

“As we prepare for a possible second surge of Covid-19 and come into the autumn/winter period which, regardless of the pandemic, has traditionally proven to be an exceptional challenge for our public hospitals, the Government must act now to implement practical plans and workable solutions that will provide capacity to ensure the system can cope,” she said.

“I look to the period ahead with apprehension for what our hospitals will face, but also with conviction to work with our new Government and Minister for Health on making the Irish health system a place that skilled consultants can and want to work in, to the benefit of all our patients.”

The IHCA also confirmed that Prof Clare Fallon, Consultant in Geriatric Medicine, Regional Hospital Mullingar, was elected as Treasurer, while Dr Conor O’Riordan, Consultant Radiologist, St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny, was voted in as Membership Secretary.

The new appointments were made during the IHCA’s National Council meeting on September 5.

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