IMO Calls for 2,000 Hospital Beds in First Two Years of New Government
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said the new Government needs to urgently implement solutions to solve the crisis in our health system, including:
- 2,000 new hospital beds in the first two years of Government;
- A end to pay discrimination so we can fill almost 600 vacant consultant posts
- Accelerated resourcing of General Practice to support our sickest and poorest patients.
Speaking today, Dr. Padraig McGarry, President of the IMO, said: “Politicians are quick to make unrealistic promises during election campaigns, but the IMO urges all political parties to focus on the real issues at hand rather than engaging in empty electioneering. We are facing a health system crisis that needs real solutions for the sake of our patients.”
The IMO has identified three key issues that it will focus on during the general election campaign, and the solutions to these issues:
- Problem: Overcrowding
Our overcrowding problem is a direct result of the removal of hundreds of hospital beds from the system a decade ago which has left Ireland’s rapidly ageing population with the fourth-lowest hospital bed per capita ratio in Europe. Overcrowding is dangerous to patients and staff. It is now commonplace for Irish hospitals to operate at dangerously high capacity rates and intolerable waiting times for a bed. Until we have an adequate amount of beds in the system the number of patients on trollies will grow year on year.
Solution: The IMO is calling for an accelerated programme of Investment in Acute Hospital Capacity of at least 5,000 beds to meet patient demand and to ensure doctors can treat patients in a timely manner. 2,000 of these being made available within the next two years. This will require significant upfront investment and recruitment of doctors and other healthcare staff.
- Problem: Too few consultants with growing waiting lists
The consultant recruitment and retention crisis is causing havoc across the health services. With the growing number of vacant consultant posts and our inability to recruit consultants the Irish public hospital system cannot cope. Over 550,000 patients are on an outpatient waiting list hoping to see a consultant while a further 210,000 patients are waiting for in patient or day case or follow on procedure. More consultants are needed to resolve all these issues.
Solution: Urgent action is needed to reverse the pay discrimination suffered by consultants employed in the HSE post October 2012. Since that unilateral cut imposed only on consultants we have been unable to recruit and this is the priority action required from any incoming Government. We then need to negotiate a new consultant contract and increase the number of consultants employed across our hospital system in line with the recommended ratios so that patients can avail of a consultant delivered service.
- Problem: GP capacity crisis
We have too few GPs which is resulting in pressures in both the regular service and in the Out of Hours (OOH) service and many patients now unable to register with a GP. Over the past 10 years, there has been a rise on average of 146 patients per GP (2018: 830 people per GP…2008 684 per GP). GPs do not currently have timely access to diagnostic services for patients in the community. Current infrastructural and capacity deficits make expansion of additional services extremely difficult without investment.
Solution: The IMO calls for accelerated resourcing of GP services and a complete overhaul of the Out-Of-Hours GP services. Young doctors must be given grants to establish new practices and existing practices should be helped to recruit more GPs with grants for additional medical staff. We also need to address the need to establish funding for the actual cost of locums when General Practice is under pressure in periods of high demand. The priority objective should be to support our sickest and poorest patients. If we do not do this fast, we will see even longer waiting lists in GP practices and a collapse of the out of hours service.
Dr. McGarry said: “It is reckless for politicians to talk about expanding services without the proper infrastructure in place. They need to sensibly prioritise what we can realistically achieve for the good of all patients rather than promising everything to every person in the hope of winning votes.
“It is also not acceptable for politicians to hide behind Slaintecare, which has become a shield for them to deflect any meaningful talk of how to fix the health system right now. We cannot wait any longer. Our health system is in chaos, and we cannot continue as we have up to this point. Patients and our medical workforce deserve better from our politicians.”