IMO: Budget must address capacity crisis and doctor recruitment
Budget Must Address Capacity Crisis and Doctor Recruitment with Significant and Long-term Investment in our Health Services
- We are now paying the price for more than a decade of under-investment
Wednesday, October 7th, 2020. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has called for urgent Government action in Budget 2021 to address the ongoing crisis in doctor recruitment and capacity in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The organisation is publishing its pre-Budget submission today.
Speaking today, Dr. Padraig McGarry, President of the IMO, said that the Government needed to immediately increase its investment if the health system is to survive a second surge of Covid-19 while continuing to deliver non-Covid care. Shutting down other care is not an option given the impact of delayed diagnosis, delayed treatment and ever increasing waiting lists for outpatient appointments, inpatient day cases and investigative procedures.
“The Government’s Winter Plan represents just 3% of the annual Health budget and is a short term investment up to March 2021 – in a normal year this investment would be welcome but this will not be sufficient over the coming months as we prepare for a second surge of a virus that has already brought the country to a standstill. What we need to see in this Budget is a realistic commitment to a fully functioning healthcare system with appropriate funding to:
- Increase acute bed capacity including temporary builds, a doubling of ICU capacity and capital finance for 5,000 inpatient beds;
- Invest in intensive care/critical care beds to the recommended level of 550;
- Immediately address the inequitable pay issue for consultants which has resulted in 500 vacant consultant posts and has made it impossible for the HSE to recruit consultants to deliver care to patients;
- Finally recognise the need to have a consultant-delivered public health service with multi-disciplinary teams;
- Support General Practice to deliver what has become unmanageable levels of care in the community in a sustainable way; and
- Develop mental health services and invest in eHealth to meet the needs of the community particularly in light of the severe impact COVID has had.
Dr McGarry said: “We have to reimagine how we think about health expenditure; it is not a drain on our economy but a vital service that is an enabler of our economic recovery. We cannot countenance a return to pre-Covid levels of investment which was not enough and has brought us to this situation where are health services are under enormous strain. We cannot paper over the cracks and expect our health system to cope.”
The IMO recognises the fiscal situation facing the country, however Dr McGarry said: “We warned at the time of the last recession that any cutbacks in health would be disastrous. Unfortunately our warnings were not heeded so we are appealing to Government not to repeat the mistakes of the past.”
Dr. McGarry said: “Doctors are doing everything they can to help fight Covid-19 but they are working in a system that does not properly value their contribution. Time and again, we have heard empty promises from politicians who cannot grasp the scale of the crisis in our health system – now, with the additional pressures caused by Covid-19, they need to realise that our health system is on the verge of collapse and we need to act now.”
In the pre-Budget submission, the IMO calls for:
- The strengthening of public health capacity with immediate awarding of Consultant status to public health specialists and the implementation of the Crowe Horwath Report, as recommended by the Scally Report and the Covid-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel;
- Immediate investment in the expansion of acute bed capacity;
- Immediate recruitment of additional hospital consultants;
- Additional support of General Practice through shift of care to a community setting and more capacity;
- Properly resourced specialist community mental health services and investment in eHealth; and
- Continued investment in vaccination and cancer screening programmes.
Dr. McGarry said: “There is not one area of the health service that has not been affected by the Covid-19. The Government needs to wake up to the fact that nothing is more important than the health of our citizens. Irish people deserve a health system that can stand up to the challenges posed by this virus – we are all in this together, and as such we need a health system that can care for us all.”