The State needs to increase significantly the number of medical specialists working in the health service as there are about 250 vacant posts and “far too many” others filled on a non-permanent basis, the Minister for Health has said.

Addressing the annual conference of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) on Saturday, Stephen Donnelly said he wanted to see an agreement reached “within weeks” on a new Sláintecare contract which would see medical specialists treat only public patients in State hospitals.

According to The Irish Times, he said a new contract “had to be concluded” before the end of the year.

Mr Donnelly also said that the number of people on waiting lists for treatment had been unacceptably high for years and had worsened as a result of the pandemic and the cyberattack on the HSE.

He said urgent action was required, and if success was to be achieved a co-ordinated effort across both the public and private system would be needed.

“We must do things differently than we have in the past. We must innovate, and we must be bold and disruptive in our thinking.”

IHCA president Prof Alan Irvine said it was not a typographical error in letters being sent to parents offering scans for their children in 14 years’ time. He said some public hospitals were offering appointments in 2035.


Explained: What is Sláintecare and what’s the cont…

The Minister said the introduction of the public-only contract – which is a key element of the overall Sláintecare reform programme – would “form an important part of our progress towards universal healthcare”.

He said achieving universal healthcare in Ireland was “one of the most important projects of our time”.

“While getting there is difficult, the concept itself is very simple – timely access to affordable high quality care,” he said.

“We all know that we’re not even close to that right now. Girls and boys, women and men, waiting sometimes years to see a consultant, to wait again to get a scan, to wait again to have a procedure. In one of the wealthiest countries on earth this is completely unacceptable.”