Irish Medical Organisation

IMO Statement on Special Committee on Covid-19 Response

  • Number of longstanding issues must be urgently addressed before ‘unprecedented pressure’ of oncoming winter season


  • IMO: ‘We want to work with the Minister in a proactive and constructive way to address the medical manpower crisis’


Wednesday, August 26th, 2020.  The President of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has called on the Government to urgently address a number of issues before the “unprecedented pressure” the upcoming winter season will put on the health system.

  • The severe shortage of bed capacity and current limitations to outpatient clinics requires a comprehensive modular build programme;
  • 500 consultant posts are empty or staffed on a temporary basis, which is a direct result of the 30% pay disparity between consultants based solely on when they were appointed;
  • The delay in the provision of the flu vaccine is very concerning;
  • The awarding of consultant contracts to public health specialists must be fast-tracked in recognition of their expertise and specialist training.

Speaking following an appearance by the HSE, NPHET and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly at today’s Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, Dr Padraig McGarry said: “This winter season will put unprecedented pressure on our health system, which was already unfit for purpose prior to the emergence of Covid-19.

“We are seeing lengthening waiting lists while our bed capacity and ability to schedule outpatient appointments has significantly reduced due to infection control and social distancing guidelines. The IMO is hugely disappointed that we have not yet seen a comprehensive modular build programme which would alleviate the pressure. GPs need to be able to refer patients to acute settings and consultants need to be able to see those patients in a safe and timely manner.”

Dr. McGarry said that the health system faced unprecedented challenges if action is not taken in a number of key areas. “Doctors and indeed all other healthcare workers are striving to do their utmost for patients at this time but there is real worry about the coming months. We want to work with the Minister in a proactive and constructive way to address the medical manpower crisis.”

He said the shortage of consultants was a significant concern. “The ongoing consultant pay disparity has directly led to a severe consultant shortage at a time when we need them most and we have to immediately reverse the politically motivated, inequitable and unfair cut to consultant pay. 

“The argument that this is the biggest obstacle to recruitment is long over – we must act now. While we very much welcome the Minister’s comments in respect of our public health specialists, we hope that these words are accompanied by immediate action. Public health doctors are the nation’s first line of defence in the fight against Covid-19. They have been working tirelessly for six months now yet there has been no recognition of their skills and expertise from the Government.”

Dr. McGarry added that it was very concerning that the provision of the flu vaccine has been delayed given the ramifications for the population while Covid-19 infections are on the increase. He said GPs around the country need to put additional plans and measures into place to administer vaccines this year and need certainty about supplies, dates and resources. 

He said that NPHET guidelines needed to be supported and adhered to. “We need to hold firm and listen to NPHET, who are doing a fantastic job amidst huge pressure. By listening to their advice, we can mitigate the risk that the virus is posing.”

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