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Over 47,000 children waiting to see a specialist due to consultants shortage

Of that number, 1,989 children in Ireland are waiting to see a paediatric surgeon.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/Beenicebeelove

THERE ARE 47,255 children across Ireland waiting to see a specialist paediatrician for an outpatient appointment in the three hospitals of Children’s Health Ireland, according to new figures.

Currently, 1 in 5 permanent consultant posts in the public health sector are either unfilled or filled by temporary appointments.

Children’s Health Ireland, which collects data and records from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin, Temple Street Children’s University Hospital and National Children’s Hospital at Tallaght University Hospital, confirmed, that the new Paediatric Outpatient and Urgent Care Centre at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, will now only open on a phased basis because of “vacancies in consultant posts”.

There are recruitment challenges nationally and internationally in certain specialities such as paediatric radiology and paediatric emergency medicine.

The figures were obtained by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association.

This is also contributing to waiting times, where there’s been an increase of 14,965 in the last 36 months, more than a 46% increase in the number of children waiting to see a paediatrician for an outpatient appointment.

Of this figure of 47,255:

  • 7,988 children are waiting to see a paediatric ENT specialist
  • 5,165 children are waiting to see a paediatric cardiologist
  • 3,735 children are waiting to see a paediatric orthopaedic specialist, and
  • 1,989 children are waiting to see a paediatric surgeon.

Professor Alf Nicholson, RCSI Professor of Paediatrics and Consultant Paediatrician at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, said:

“It’s very unacceptable to have a waiting time of anything other than three to six months, at most, for a young child or infant to see a specialist.

Sadly, at the moment our wait times are well above that, and that is very distressing to be a part of.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) said that it “regrets any long wait a patient and their family has for an outpatient appointment”.”CHI have secured NTPF funding for initiatives in 2019 to address access to patients for specialities, such as, ENT.

Recruitment of additional consultants for CHI specialties with the longest OPD waiting times (Allergy, Dermatology, Radiology, Gastroenterology, Rheumatology, Orthopaedics & EN) is also underway following CHI securing additional National Service Plan funding in 2019.

It said that a new hospital at Connolly in Blanchardstown on 31 July 2019, which will have an impact on reducing wait times.

It is the first, tangible and visible manifestation of the new paediatric model of care and is an important milestone in the overall new children’s hospital project. Currently there are just over 5,000 children on our waiting lists for General Paediatric Outpatient appointments.

“It is expected that we will see 500 patients during August 2019 as a result of the additional capacity with the opening of this new facility which will contribute to significant reductions in General Paediatric OPD waiting lists, an initiative that is welcome to children and families and also our staff.

“When fully operational, CHI at Connolly in Blanchardstown is expected to provide 17,000 outpatient appointments (General Paediatrics and Orthopaedic clinics) every year,” the statement said.

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