ONE in four whole-time equivalent (WTE) consultant posts are vacant across “a range of medical and surgical specialties” at Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH).
There are currently 66 approved Consultant Posts at LUH of which 47 posts are filled on a permanent basis, according to a spokesperson for Saolta University Health Care Group.
All other posts are currently filled by Consultants on fixed term contracts or Locum Consultants, apart from two of which one WTE will be filled by a permanent consultant in forthcoming weeks.
“The specialties which remain currently unfilled include Consultant Urologist – candidate appointed awaiting start date and Consultant Radiologist – to commence February 2022.
“Permanent campaigns are continuing through the Public Appointment Service across all specialties to fill posts on a permanent basis, whilst locally LUH continues to fill the unfilled posts on a temporary basis,” the spokesperson said.
There are ongoing consultant campaigns for the filling of permanent consultant positions in the following specialties: Orthopaedics; obstetrics and gynaecology; microbiology; anaesthetics; nephrology; radiology; and geriatric medicine.
Sixty of the hospital’s consultants are on the Medical Council’s specialist register, while six doctors employed as consultants are not on the specialist register, Saolta’s spokesperson added.
Difficulties recruiting consultants have been discussed at Saolta’s board meetings, with these challenges especially evident at LUH “due to location”. The State-run Public Appointments Service carries out the recruitment for a number of medical consultants while some posts are filled directly by the HSE.
According to its annual report, the appointments service (PAS) received 470 applications during the year for medical consultant posts, resulting in 107 people assigned to posts or recommended for positions.
Earlier this month the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association (IHCA) warned that the ongoing shortage of hospital consultants across a large number of specialties in the Saolta University Health Care Group is restricting patients from accessing timely, high-quality medical and surgical care.
It is contributing massively to growing waiting lists where now more than 152,000 people in the region are waiting for hospital treatment or an outpatient appointment with a consultant. Between July 2015 and July 2021, there have been an additional 6,336 people added to outpatient waiting lists in Letterkenny, an increase of 43% with a total of 20,990 now waiting to be accessed by a hospital consultant at LUH.