IMO President responds to “deeply worrying” healthcare changes in Budget 2014
“The Minister is talking about revolutionizing the system but its like planning an extension for a house built on quicksand. “
Long process of negotiation ahead before GPs will agree to new contract for children under 6
Tuesday 15th October 2013. The President of the Irish Medical Organisation, Dr. Matthew Sadlier, has issued a strong criticism of the changes in healthcare announced in Budget 2014 today. Dr. Sadlier said that the changes marked a dramatic change in the political attitude to heath care and suggests a new willingness to use healthcare as a pawn to curry political favour amongst specific parts of the electorate rather than a policy instrument to promote healthcare for the most needy in our community.
Dr. Sadlier highlighted a number of measures of concern:
• The decision to reduce the availability of medical cards for low income elderly, sick people in order to finance GP cards for under six year olds irrespective of means.
• The commencement of what threatens to be a “witchhunt” against holders of ineligible and redundant cards. “The onus is on the Minister to justify the figure of €113m in savings on these cards …otherwise it simply becomes a target that bureaucrats will aim for with no regard to fairness or equity.”
• The decision to raise prescription charges – which, ironically, the current Minister criticised as a disincentive to people to take necessary medicines. He was correct then. He is wrong now.
• A further cut in the overall budget for the Department of Health of some €300 million.
Dr. Sadlier said that the current Irish healthcare system was “not fit-for-purpose”; “Patients are in despair at having to use the healthcare system and Doctors and Consultants are emigrating rather than having to work in it. The system is failing and nothing is being done about it.”
He said; “the Minister is talking about revolutionizing the system but it’s like planning an extension for a house built on quicksand. The Government has the wrong vision, the wrong management focus and the wrong priorities and the system is moving backwards rather than forwards.”
Dr. Sadlier said that Doctors would continue to work within the system but would insist on new contracts to govern the new arrangements being put in place; “The extension of GP cards to cover children under six is not covered by any current contract between the HSE and GPs. If the Government want to introduce a policy like this they will have to negotiate with the IMO.”
Dr. Sadlier did welcome the allocation of €20m for the “development of community mental health services as envisaged under “Vision for Change”. However, he stressed, it is critical that there are clear goals and objectives set for this investment and that they match those areas within the mental health services where the need is greatest.
On the issue of alcohol, Dr. Sadlier said that the IMO welcomed the increase in excise duty but regretted the "missed opportunity" to set a minimum price for alcohol as the IMO has called for.