There has been a significant increase in the consultant manpower needed to deliver cardiac surgery and orthopaedic services in the past ten years. Based on figures provided by Comhairle na nOspideal the number of cardiothoracic surgeons increased from six to 11 between 1993 and 2003 and the number of orthopaedic surgeons increased from 52 to 76 in the same period.
Plans and developments are in place which will increase the capacity for cardiac surgery. For example, the theatre and critical care complex, completed as part of the phase two development at University College Hospital, Galway, includes provision for cardiac surgery facilities. Approval has also been given to the Southern Health Board to proceed with the planning and construction of a new €82 million cardiac and renal dialysis building at Cork University Hospital.
With regard to orthopaedic services, the North Eastern Health Board has re-organised its orthopaedic services in moving trauma services to Drogheda and creating additional capacity for elective services in Navan. A new orthopaedic service will be provided at Mayo General Hospital. This new service will serve the people of the western region and increase orthopaedic capacity for the region. Building and equipping the new facility has been completed.
As the single most limiting factor for admission to hospital is bed availability, increasing the bed capacity of the acute hospital system is of particular priority for my Department. The extent of the shortfall in acute capacity has been identified by the report, Acute Hospital Bed Capacity — A National Review, as a requirement of an additional 3,000 acute beds in acute hospital by 2001. The first phase of this process commenced in January 2002 when capital and revenue funding was provided for an additional 709 beds. This represents an increase of 6% on existing capacity. Some 568 of these beds have been commissioned to date.