Shutting down non-Covid-19 healthcare not an option

‘Government needs to immediately increase investment if health system is to survive second Covid-19 surge’

Shutting down non-Covid-19 services is not an option for the health system to survive a second surge, President of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) warned today, following the launch of the IMO Pre-Budget 2021 Submission.

In today’s submission, the IMO has called for urgent Government action in Budget 2021 to address an ongoing crisis in doctor recruitment and capacity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ahead of Budget 2021, which is to be announced next Tuesday (October 13), IMO President Dr Padraig McGarry said that the Government needed to immediately increase its investment if the health system was 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,” he added.

In its submission published today, the IMO is urging the Government to proactively support general practice in the shift of care to the community setting.

The trade union is also pressing Government for diagnostic, radiology and laboratory departments to be resourced on an ongoing basis; for acute medical units (AMUs) and acute surgery units (ASUs) to be appropriately resourced with clear referral pathways for patients requiring urgent care, and to support general practitioners (GP)s to employ additional GPs, practice nurses and other support staff.

The submission document also urges 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.

Other recommendations include immediate investment in the expansion of acute bed capacity with up to 2,190 (20%) additional beds required in preparation for a future surge.

Urgent expansion of physical capacity through investment in temporary builds; immediate financing of a programme of investment in 5,000 additional public acute bed capacity including investment in standalone public hospitals for elective care.

A doubling of critical care capacity to 550 critical care beds is recommended; an examination of options to ensure that National Treatment Purchase Fund funding is used to the maximum benefit of patients and the taxpayer is also sought.

“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,” recommends the submission.

To address the shortage of hospital consultants, the IMO is pressing for urgent implementation of targeted measures to recruit and retain hospital consultants.

In the meantime, all specialist registrars (SpRs) who have finished training should be offered a temporary consultant locum post. In addition, the number of non-consultant hospital doctor (NCHD) training posts should be increased to meet expected future demand.

The IMO recommends further resourcing of rehabilitative care beds and home care supports, including intensive home care packages, to allow older people remain at home if possible. Investment in a programme of GP care for nursing home patients that reflects the complexity of care required is urged.

The submission seeks increased resources for specialist community mental health services to ensure teams are staffed with the full multidisciplinary compliment of staff as recommended in A Vision for Change.

Dr McGarry added that how the nation thought about health expenditure had to be reimagined.

“It is not a drain on our economy but a vital service that is an enabler of our economic recovery,” he said.

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