Up to 350 patients die every year because of overcrowding, consultant says

Hundreds of consultant jobs remain unfilled due to recruitment problems - Dr Fergal Hickey


File photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Up to 350 patients are dying each year as a direct result of overcrowding in Irish hospitals, a leading consultant has claimed.

Dr Fergal Hickey told Newstalk's Sunday Show that delays in securing intensive care beds for patients increase the risk of mortality.

"This issue is primarily an infrastructural one, but there is also a significant recruitment difficulty within the HSE," he said.

"At the moment, there is something like 300 hospital consultant jobs for which there hasn’t been a single applicant.

"That’s a major problem because if you look at Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the US, what they offer people is multiple times what they would get to work in Ireland."

Dr Hickey, who is an emergency consultant at Sligo General Hospital, added that greater communication was needed with the HSE.

"I think [Minister for Health Simon Harris] is doing his best," he said.

"To be fair, both he and his predecessor understand the problem.

"However, what they need to do is get the HSE to do what needs to be done, and I don’t think the HSE fully understands the issue."

Dr Hickey also cast doubt on the Department of Health's target to reduce delayed discharges in acute hospitals to no more than 500.

"That’s the equivalent of a hospital like University Hospital Waterford being out of commission."

He was speaking after the Irish Hospital Consultants Association held its annual conference in Kilkenny yesterday.