We have fantastic people working in our health service and the outcomes for those who access it are generally very positive. The year 2018, however, has been marked by a number of incredibly tragic incidents that are still ongoing.
We had CervicalCheck and the implications of that. Deputy Alan Kelly hosted a very powerful meeting last night around some of the women affected there. We had the issue that I raised with the Tánaiste in November, highlighted by Mr. Justice Peter Kelly about non-qualified doctors in our hospitals.
Yesterday we had the report from the analysis of the scans at University Hospital Kerry. That found that 11 patients, one of whom has passed away, suffered delayed diagnosis. That person waited for 76 weeks, 18 months, for a diagnosis of lung cancer. A total of 44,831 X-rays were audited and found to be correct. That is an important figure to remember. A figure of 1,298 X-rays had significant errors, and 420 patients had to be recalled and, of those, some 59 required further tests. According to the report, these X-rays and the scans were read by a locum consultant who no longer works in the hospital, having resigned from it in October 2017. Can the Tánaiste confirm that that person is not working in the Irish health service at the moment?
On the broader issue, there are currently more than 500 consultant positions filled by non-consultants. They are either locum, fixed-term or specified-purpose contracts. That represents 16% of the total population of consultants. There are further 199 unapproved posts. We have vacancies at therapist level, nurse level and GP level right across the health service. It is straining under the pressure of work, which is being exacerbated by these vacancies. A key recommendation of the report yesterday was that we would define acceptable volumes of work for individual radiologists. That is surely a concept that can be extended right across the health service. How does one define "acceptable volume of work" for anybody in the health service when there are such vacancies and such demand? The Government is continuing to put its head in the sand about the impact of those vacancies on patient care, and on people working in the service and the pressure those vacancies are putting on already pressurised work environments.
Does the Tánaiste accept that the vacancies across our health service are unacceptable? Does he accept that the vacancies are allowing doctors who are not qualified to work in positions that they should not be in? Is he concerned about the impact these vacancies are having on the quality of care available and the impact that these are having on morale among those working within the health service?