IHCA warns that Patient health in the North-West at risk due to excessive delays to care

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association has warned that the growing shortage of essential acute hospital beds and Consultants across the West and North-West region is resulting in waiting lists for treatment that is impacting on patient outcomes.


At the end of March there were 131,600 people waiting for an outpatient appointment, inpatient/day case treatment or procedure across the six hospitals making up the Saolta Hospital Group which include both Sligo and Letterkenny University Hospital’s


The Government’s €443 million Waiting List Act Plan for 20232 has set a target to reduce waiting lists for outpatient appointments and inpatient and day case treatment and procedures nationally by 69,000 by the end of the year compared with the number waiting at the start of 2023.


This would equate to a reduction of approximately 12,800 across the Saolta Group.


Instead, more than 3,400 people have been added to the three main hospital waiting lists in the region since the start of the year.


The IHCA claim that this is because the shortage of beds is so severe that acutely ill patients are admitted, and essential surgical and other care has to be cancelled due to the significant capacity deficits.



They have urged the health service management to significantly increase bed capacity and access to operating theatres across the region to address the repeated cancellation of hospital appointments and operations in response to ongoing emergency department overcrowding.


A total of 2,851 appointments or operations were cancelled during December 2022 and January 2023.


Consultants say the overcrowding crisis and increase in cancellations are being compounded by a severe lack of adequate acute bed capacity and Consultant vacancies in the region.


Just 69 additional inpatient beds have been opened over the past three years at hospitals in the Saolta Group, including 13 beds at University Hospital Galway, 46 beds at Letterkenny University Hospital and 10 beds at Mayo University Hospital.


That amounts to just 7% of the 970 extra acute hospital beds opened nationwide since the start of 2020, compared with the West/North-West accounting for approximately one sixth of the national population.


Recently it was announced that not a single one of the 162 additional beds planned for 2023 are in the Saolta Group.

The IHCA are calling on the Government to take a whole-of-service approach and work with Consultants to put in place credible, time-bound capacity and Consultant staffing plans to ensure the delivery of more timely patient care.