Irish Medical Organisation

IMO has meeting with Minister for Health.

IMO highlights key challenges in health services including retention of Irish doctors in the services, adequate funding for the services and problems with the proposed introduction of free GP care at point of access

Tuesday 2nd September 2014. The President of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), Professor Trevor Duffy, has told the Minister for Health, Dr. Leo Varadkar TD that the IMO wanted a constructive and positive relationship with the Department of Health built on mutual respect and co-operation with a view to tackling the problems facing doctors and patients in the Irish Health Services. Professor Duffy was speaking after a delegation from the IMO met with the new Minister for the first meeting since his appointment.

Professor Duffy outlined the IMO’s position in respect of a variety of “major” challenges facing the health services including:

• The recruitment and retention crisis with Irish trained doctors.
• The impact of severe cuts in the health budget.
• The Government’s plans for Universal Health Insurance
• Plans for free GP care at the point of access

Professor Duffy said that the exodus of recently trained doctors testified to the crisis in the health services and was now affecting doctors in all specialities; “Doctors are voting with their feet and leaving the Irish health services for jobs with better pay and better conditions in other countries. In the past this used to affect younger more recently qualified consultants who would travel abroad for a few years and then return. But today we’re seeing consultants leaving and not coming back and we’re seeing experienced GPs packing up and moving their families to new countries. This is perhaps the biggest personnel crisis the Irish health service has ever faced and it needs an urgent response.”

On the issue of the health budget, Professor Duffy warned that the service was now reeling from the impact of cuts in successive budgets; “we estimated that the health budget has been cut by €4bn since 2008 (27%). This had led to 12,000 fewer staff, 900 fewer hospital beds, longer waiting lists and a crisis in morale for doctors and other health professionals.”

On the issue of Universal Health Insurance (UHI), Professor Duffy called for an open and transparent examination and consultation on alternative models of delivering universal health care such as social insurance and taxation models.

On the issue of free GP care, Professor Duffy warned that the ongoing roll out of free GP care at point of access on the basis of a patient’s age was not evidenced based and a better approach would be to increase that the income limits for patients year on year to take in additional patients from the lowest income groups while introducing a resourced system to manage chronic disease categories at the same time.

Professor Duffy said that the IMO was willing to engage positively and energetically with the new Minister but demanded to be taken seriously as a key stakeholder; “too often Governments have sought to dictate to doctors rather than to engage with them. We believe we have a valuable contribution to make to the development of more efficient, fairer health services in this country and our role on the front line of the services means our voice must be heard.”


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