Finally the truth -- op waiting lists getting longer
THE staff exodus from hospitals this month will result in longer waiting lists for surgery, the Health Minister has admitted.
James Reilly has eventually accepted that the massive number of retirements will see vital operations postponed.
Experts say the health system will come under intense pressure to grapple with more than 3,500 early retirements from March 1.
Patients are now bracing themselves to be told that their operations will be put back.
The minister conceded that patients waiting for surgery will be affected, describing the situation as a bit of a "conundrum".
"I've absolutely no problem in saying that if one of the things we have to do is slow down on elective inpatient procedures for a short period of time to allow us absorb this change, then we'll do that," he said.
"But we will increase our productivity toward the middle of the year, because I have made it very clear that the new challenge this year is that every patient be treated within nine months," he added.
Experts believe that elective operations -- those that are not considered emergencies but which may be important -- will be the first to be postponed.
This means that people waiting for the likes of kidney transplants and hip replacements will face delays.
Health sources fear the serious effects on hospitals when thousands of workers leave the sector next month.
Those retiring include 1,678 nurses, 84 consultants, 22 radiographers and 30 emergency medical staff.
Some 494 staff will leave the Dublin Mid-Leinster region with 964 employees retiring in the HSE West region.
Dr Reilly has described plans to address the impact of the retirement scheme as "well advanced".
But Fianna Fail Health Spokesman Billy Kelleher believes it is vital patients are "given assurances".
"What I'd clearly like the minister to do is to outline and publish the plan that they say they have in place along with the HSE to give assurances to the people that may need those emergency services, that may need maternity services in the very near future," he said.
"So all we're looking for is that the plan would be published. We can all look at it, and if there is deficiencies and inadequacies in it we can highlight it."