There are 18 hospital consultant positions at Galway University Hospitals that are currently vacant according to new figures from the HSE.
Galway University Hospitals includes UHG and Merlin Park Hospital within the larger Saolta hospital group.
There are approximately 3,000 consultants working in the public health service at this moment in time.
According to the Irish Times, the HSE has said that there are up to 350 consultants positions vacant at hospitals around Ireland.
The highest number of vacancies is at Cork University Hospital, the largest hospital in the south of Ireland, which has 33 vacant consultant positions.
The figures released by the HSE are in response to a question in the Dáil from Sinn Féin health spokerperson Louise O’Reilly.
She says they show there is a crisis in hospitals as regards recruiting and retaining consultants.
“The HSE has tried every way to get around the fact that there is a problem, including employing doctors not on the specialist register as consultants and employing locum/agency consultants; but this just papers over the true extent of the crisis,”
“There is a crisis and the Minister for Health and the HSE need to engage with representatives of hospital consultants and come up with a plan to address the situation, because continuing on this current trajectory is extremely dangerous for patients, staff and the health service.”
The new figures come as a report on recruitment and retention difficulties is expected to be finalised by the Public Service Pay Commission in the near future.
Public sector unions hope that the findings of this report will lead to pay raises for their members.
The HSE has said that it has introduced a new database system that matches consultants to to particular posts in hospitals.
It said that where a consultant is not matched to a position on the database, it indicates that the position is vacant.
Using this system, the HSE has said there are currently 349 vacant consultant positions at hospitals and community settings.
However, the HSE did qualify that the system was only recently put in place and that its matching was incomplete, therefore there, “may be variances and gaps in the data supplied to that held within hospitals.”
Other medical organisations have indicated that the number of vacant consultant jobs could be much higher than the HSE has said, as high as 45o positions.