New IMO President calls for “step-change” in level of ongoing funding for health services after the Covid crisis ends.
“Pandemic has exposed fragility of our health services”
Sunday 18th April 2021. The new President of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has called for a step-change in the level of ongoing funding for public health services after the Covid Pandemic crisis ends to ensure that the Irish public are never again left as vulnerable to a health crisis as they currently are.
Dr. Ina Kelly was appointed President of the IMO at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting this weekend. Dr. Kelly is a Specialist in Public Health Medicine (SPHM) from Tyrrellspass, Co. Westmeath. She succeeds Dr. Padraig McGarry who served a two-year term (due to the Pandemic).
Speaking today (Sunday), Dr. Kelly said that her experience as a public health specialist would inform her role as President; “the pandemic has exposed the fragility of our public health services in a very dramatic manner. That fragility results from more than a decade of austerity and under investment which has given us:
- a beds crisis that has normalised the spectacle of patients being treated on trollies in corridors,
- unacceptable waiting lists for treatment that should shame a modern European nation and
- a crisis of morale amongst health service professionals that is reflected in over 700 vacancies at Consultant level, a succession crisis in General Practice and a NCHD cohort that is planning mass emigration.”
Dr. Kelly acknowledged the exceptional funding that have been put into the health services to help manage the pandemic; “We acknowledge the exceptional short-term funding that has been made available over the past year but the reality is that we need a step change in the day-to-day funding levels put into our public health services so that we can build a service that is fit-for-purpose now and capable of dealing with any future health crisis we may face.”
Dr. Kelly welcomed the breakthrough (Thursday night) in the dispute on Public Health Medicine which will see 84 Consultant posts in the public health medicine service for the first time ever. The IMO Public Health Committee has recommended the deal to its members who will vote on the issue in the coming week.
Dr. Kelly said the Consultant Pay crisis (which sees consultants doing the same job being paid 30% less if they were appointed after 2012) as a particularly urgent issue for the coming year; “you can’t separate the pay crisis for consultants from the recruitment crisis for consultants which sees 700+ vacant consultant posts. They are inextricably linked and until we stop penalising new consultant appointments, we won’t be able to fill those posts never mind fill the 600 additional posts which the Minister talks about.”
Dr. Kelly also warned about the morale crisis amongst doctors. She said; “The biggest crisis in our health system at the moment is the crisis in morale amongst key workers; the low morale of young consultants facing impossible demands on their time and knowing that they are earning over 30% less than their colleagues because the Government thinks it’s ok to have a two tier salary system; the low morale of GPs who are under immense pressure all the time, the low morale of our NCHDs who are queuing up to apply for opportunities to work abroad, rather than stay here and face systematic neglect and inexcusable working hours, and the low morale of foreign doctors working here in Ireland who have no clear path to enable them to make the most of their careers, or to serve this country as well as they can.”
“And of course, the low morale of our public health doctors through 2020 who have had to juggle attention over the past year between fighting the pandemic on the one hand and fighting for the recognition of their value to the health services on the other.”
At the AGM, specialist sessions focused on ground-breaking research by the IMO on the mental health and well-being of doctors, the experiences of different doctors from the frontline fighting the pandemic and broader mental health issues and services.
Survey on Doctor Mental Health and Well-Being
The AGM received a presentation on a comprehensive survey on mental health and well-being amongst doctors.
The survey which measured attitudes on these issues amongst over 1,000 doctors found that 7 out of 10 doctors are at high risk of burnout.
The survey found that burn-out was particularly common amongst younger doctors with almost 80% of young doctors in the training stage of their careers reporting high levels of burn-out.
Other findings included:
- 90% of doctors reported having experienced some form of depression, anxiety, stress, emotional stress or some other mental health condition related to or made worse by work.
- 79% of doctors reported having experienced some form of depression, anxiety, stress, emotional stress or other mental health condition related to or made worse by the Covid 19 pandemic
- 85% of doctors believe the pandemic has had a negative impact on their work-life balance
- 82% of doctors report working despite being physically sick, mentally ill, injured or exhausted.
Experiences from the Frontline:
The AGM also heard from a number of speakers on their experience on the frontline during the pandemic. Key speakers including Dr. Catherine Motherway, Dr. Gabriel Beecham, Dr. Mary O’Riordan and Dr. Maitiu O’Faolain. The speakers recounted their personal experiences of responding to the pandemic and the lessons learnt including the need for greater preparedness for public health crises in the future.
Mental Health Impacts:
The AGM also heard from a number of speakers on the impact of Covid 19 on Mental Health and Mental Health Services. Speakers included Professor Brendan Kelly, Dr. Niall Muldoon, Dr. Ide Delargy and Dr. Madeleine Ní Dhálaigh.
This session heard of a significant “upsurge in demand” from mental health problems linked to the pandemic.
Dr. Ide Delargy said that the Practitioner Health Programme, which provides support to doctors, dentists and pharmacists, had seen a 50% increase in demand during the first quarter of this year compared to the same period a year ago.