A "severe shortage" of consultants has led to a 50 per cent increase in waiting times at hospitals in the North East.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association says one-in-four approved permanent posts at local hospitals aren't filled.
Across Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath there are 36,000 people waiting for a public hospital inpatient, endoscopy or outpatient appointment with a consultant.
Since 2015, outpatient waiting lists have increased by more than 5,000 - or 49 per cent.
At the same time, 26 per cent, or 59 of the 228 approved hospital consultant posts were either vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis.
IHCA President Professor Alan Irvine said a "severe shortage of consultants" that was the main contributor to what he called "unacceptable delays".
He has called on the Government to make good on its promise to deliver extra beds, consultants and facilities to Cavan General Hospital, Our Lady's Navan and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda., saying growing waiting lists demonstrate the impact of years of underinvestment.
Professor Irvine added that the rise in Covid hospitalisations and cancellation of appointments will add to the waiting lists further.