There’s a warning that the risk of a mistake in the health sector is ‘red hot’ because of the 'disastrous' impact of the HSE cyber attack.
Professor Rob Landers - vice-president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association - says the ransomware attack is having a worse impact on diagnosing patients than COVID-19.
He’s warning people could be given the wrong diagnosis as a result.
He said: “It’s like driving a car without a safety belt or airbags. It will be months recovering - not weeks, months.
“Patients will have operations delayed, diagnoses delayed… and there is a risk the diagnosis will be wrong. I’m sorry to say that, but it’s a fact: we just don’t have the safety systems in place to deliver safe diagnoses at the moment.
“Of those [test results] we are processing, the risk of a mistake is red hot - because we have a lot of IT systems that are installed to help us prevent mistakes.”
Professor Landers was speaking at the Oireachtas health committee, which also heard about the continuing impact of the pandemic on cancer and other health services.
A record 883,000 people are now on hospital waiting lists because of the pandemic.
Over 21,000 patients are now waiting longer than one year for essential hospital treatment, while up to 2,000 people may have had their cancer undiagnosed last year.
Dr Gabrielle Colleran says healthcare workers are constantly dealing with huge backlogs and staff shortages.
She said: “The reality is it’s like fielding half a team against the All Blacks and then being surprised that we’re not getting through the backlog.
“We’re running to stay still. We’re like ducks flapping - we look calm above the water, but we’re not.”
There were also calls at the committee for a national public messaging campaign to encourage people to go to their doctor if they feel unwell, amid concerns that one in six people are currently not doing this.