Hospital consultants say there has been a surge in children forced to wait for a specialist appointment due to an ongoing recruitment crisis in the sector.
According to the latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund, nearly 58,000 children are waiting for an outpatient appointment at hospitals around the country.
Over 47,000 of them are patients at Irelandâ€™s three childrenâ€™s hospitals – Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin, Temple Street Children’s University Hospital and the National Children’s Hospital at Tallaght Hospital.
According to NTPF figures, nearly 19,500 children have been waiting for longer than a year for their appointment â€“ with nearly 12,000 waiting over 18 months.
â€” IHCA (@IHCA_IE) July 17, 2019
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association said the problem at the three childrenâ€™s hospital in Dublin has increased by over 46% since June 2016.
Rheumatologist Laura Durcan is vice president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association.
â€œBehind every child who is sitting on a waiting list are worried parents, worried families and really a situation where over the last three years, we have had almost a 50% rise in the number of kids waiting to see a paediatrician for an outpatient appointment.
â€œIt is getting kind of worse and worse and we talk about these numbers and we throw them around and they are huge but each one of those is a little person whose development is being curtailed by something that should be intervened upon in a timely manner.â€
The group is calling on the public to add their voices to its #CareCantWait campaign online.
â€œIt is very unacceptable to have a waiting time of more than six months for a young child or infant to see a specialist.â€ – Prof. Alf Nicholson, Consultant Paediatrician, discusses the impact of long #WaitingTimes for children. #CARECANTWAIT pic.twitter.com/MtcSxlsJyS
â€” IHCA (@IHCA_IE) July 22, 2019
She said the delay to the opening of the Paediatric Outpatient and Urgent Care Centre at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown â€“ which cost â‚¬25m to build â€“ is due to “vacancies in consultant posts.â€
â€œAs a result of the failure to recruit consultants in radiology and in other specialties we are looking at a phased opening or perhaps a situation where this unit wonâ€™t be able to open at all,â€ she said.
â€œThe Blanch unit is a â‚¬25m investment.
â€œIt is very small fry in terms of the bigger picture but if we canâ€™t even get over the first hurdle for the kids of Ireland, there is no way we are going to be able to the great white elephant at the St Jamesâ€™s Hospital site.â€
The IHCA said it â€œunacceptableâ€ to have waiting list of more than three to six months for children.