Ireland suffering from lack of qualified cardiologists

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has launched a social media campaign, #CareCantWait, in response to a pervasive lack of access to medical care in the country.

On July 8, local outlet Kilkenny Now highlighted that in Kilkenny, a southeastern Irish town of 26,500, nearly 400 people are currently waiting for an outpatient appointment with a cardiologist. Fifteen of those individuals have waited a year or more for a one-on-one with a cardiology consultant at St. Luke’s General Hospital.

The numbers are reflective of a larger crisis—the IHCA reports 23,000 adults and 5,000 kids in Ireland are waiting to see a cardiologist. Ireland has just a quarter of the cardiologists most EU nations have, and Laura Durcan, a consultant rheumatologist and IHCA vice president, said the nation needs to look beyond its existing long-term plan to commission an additional 2,600 acute hospital beds.

“Other important improvements that can happen now will have an impact in reducing the size of these waiting lists,” Durcan said in a statement.

One of those improvements, she said, is working to end the “brain drain” of newly qualified consultants in Ireland. A recent Medical Council report found that between 2015 and 2017, more than 700 Irish specialists either left the country to work abroad or quit the profession entirely. 

“We are calling on the government to sit down with the IHCA and work with us to end the brain drain and ensure that Ireland is an attractive place to have a medical career,” Durcan said. “Until this problem is resolved our patients will continue to be most impacted by these issues. Throughout this campaign we will continue to advocate on their behalf.”

When it comes to disparities in access to care, cardiology is second on Ireland’s list. Dermatology is first, with over 44,000 patients on the waiting list for an initial appointment with a dermatologist, and more than 21,000 and 16,000 patients are waiting to see a neurologist or respiratory consultant, respectively.