Special Oireachtas Committee on Covid 19 Response
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has told the special Oireachtas Committee on Covid 19 that a sustained investment programme for the health services is required to deal with Covid 19 and the post Covid 19 challenge. According to the IMO, such a programme must include the building of temporary facilities to increase capacity quickly as well as longer-term projects such as stand-alone public hospitals for elective care.
Speaking to the Committee the IMO (represented by Professor Matthew Sadlier and Dr. Anthony O”Connor) warned that because of Covid 19 capacity in the health services will restricted by as much as 50% to ensure that care is being delivered in a safe environment. The IMO also warned that the Government needed to urgently recruit 1,600 consultants and tackle the two-tier consultant pay issue which has long been a barrier to recruitment.
Dr. Anthony O’Connor said; “our hospitals have been overwhelmed and operating at dangerous levels of capacity for many years and COVID has exposed the underlying fragility of our services. It is untenable that we continue with historic deficits in manpower and bed capacity in the context of increasing waiting lists.”
Professor Matthew Sadlier warned of complacency about the outlook for further Covid 19 infections: “Until we have effective treatment options and a vaccine, we face continued uncertainty as to the impact of a second and subsequent waves particularly as respiratory illnesses begin to circulate again as early as September.”
The IMO also told the Committee of the waiting list crisis that has been building up as the Covid 19 crisis absorbed everybody’s attention:
Dr. Anthony O’Connor told the Committee; “Due to the cancellation of all non-urgent care across the system:
- 570,000 people are still waiting for an outpatient appointment and a further 230,000 people are on a waiting list for an inpatient or day-case procedure.
- Cancer screening programmes have been put on hold
- GP access to diagnostics and referral pathways for all patients have effectively been closed down
The IMO also urged the Committee to invest resources in public hospitals rather than applying temporary fixes via the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
Professor Matthew Sadlier said; “The NTPF which was originally a short-term solution has become a long-term measure thus depriving the public system of investment and enabling the continued neglect of our health services. A policy that consistently diverts funding to NTPF in the absence of funding of our public health services will not address the problems of capacity and will not be a long term solution to waiting lists.”