Almost 600 consultant posts remain vacant across 10 different specialties and this is having a major impact on waiting lists, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said.
It has published a full list of the shortfall in consultant numbers in each of these 10 specialties, while also highlighting the corresponding waiting lists.
The worst waiting list is seen in the area of orthopaedics. Currently, there are 68,689 patients on orthoapedic waiting lists. According to the IMO's figures, the recommended number of consultants for this specialty is 202. However, there are currently just 99 consultants working in this area, leaving a shortfall of 103.
The second highest waiting list is ENT (ear, nose and throat), with 66,201 patients waiting to be seen. The recommended number of ENT consultants is 121, however there are just 45 working in the country, leaving a shortfall of 76.
In the specialty of ophthalmology, there should be 147 consultants, however there are just 41, leaving a shortfall of 106. Meanwhile 43,848 patients are waiting to be seen.
Obstetrics and gynaecology also has a shortfall of almost 100 consultants. With a waiting list of 29,091, it should have 239 consultants, but only has 142 - a shortfall of 97.
The other shortfalls are in the areas of general surgery, dermatology, urology, cardiology, neurology and rheumatology. Altogether, there are 595 vacant consultant posts in these 10 specialties and over 560,000 patients are waiting to be seen.
The IMO has repeatedly insisted that this shortfall in numbers is a direct result of the Government's decision in 2012 to cut the pay of new consultants by 30% above the pay cuts being imposed on any other public servants at that time.
It said that this action has led to "widespread emigration among young doctors and the unprecedented inability of the HSE to attract doctors to apply for available consultant positions".
According to consultant gastroenterologist, Dr. Anthony O'Connor, this pay differential "has poisoned moral and is directly leading to our inability to fill vacant consultant posts".
Meanwhile, IMO vice president, Dr Paddy Hillery, insisted that "seven years of trainees have been lost to our country because they do not want to work in a system that treats them so unfairly".
"Why should I be expected to do the same work for 30% less than a colleague with the same qualification and training," commented Dr Lisa Cunningham, a specialist registrar in emergency medicine.
The IMO has said it will be undertaking a ballot for strike action among consultants in September if the Government has not engaged in talks to reverse this cut.
"While the Minister for Health has made encouraging comments publicly, the IMO has yet to hear directly from the Minister or his department on how they propose to respond," the organisation added.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.