THE Minister for Health has said his department acknowledges the difficulties in recruiting consultant staff in Letterkenny University Hospital.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said they are currently turning the health care system “inside out” as part of a series of measures to reduce pressure on the hospital and the emergency department.
Latest figures show that there are currently four vacant full-time consultant gynaecology posts at Letterkenny University Hospital.
Minister Donnelly visited Donegal on Friday to officially launch the HSE Enhanced Community Care (ECC) Programme. He also visited LUH and met with clinicians, consultants and hospital management.
During the meeting, the minister received a “loud and clear” message from staff that the hospital is currently facing massive challenges in hiring full time consultants.
Speaking to the Donegal News the minister said this is “quite a unique situation in Letterkenny.”
He explained that nationwide hospitals are desperately seeking sanctions for more positions, but in LUH they are struggling to fill the already sanctioned positions.
An example he gave was the new gynaecology clinic in LUH.
The minister explained that they have sanctioned six full-time consultant gynaecology posts in the clinic, but only two of them are currently filled.
The minister said that he is going to go back to the department, government and the HSE and ask them to explore this issue further.
At the time of the minister’s visit, it was reported that there were 51 people waiting on trolleys in LUH.
When asked what was being done to tackle this problem, the minister said a plan has been developed specifically for LUH and the local area.
He explained how they are currently turning the health care system “inside out”, and moving toward a community based model and moving away from the hospital centric model of care.
The opening of the new Chronic Disease Management hub in Letterkenny and introduction of the Enhanced Community Care Programme in the county will also help to reduce pressure on the hospital and the emergency department.
“The community intervention team at LUH, which did not exist a year and a half ago, are currently keeping hundreds of men and women in Donegal in their home, getting them the care they need.
“If that team didn’t exist, they would be on trolleys or they would be looking for beds here (at LUH),” the minister explained.
Minister Donnelly acknowledged that although they are working to alleviate pressure at LUH, the problem cannot be solved overnight.
“We know that for decades there hasn’t been enough capacity in the public health service, we haven’t had enough doctors, enough nurses, enough midwives, enough health and social care professionals.
“We haven’t had enough hospital or intensive care beds. So we are addressing very, very long established deficits in our system, so it does take time” he said.
“We are modernising our health care system, but that’s not enough. Because while that is going to work for the next number of decades, there are too many people waiting in Donegal for care today,” he added.