The Covid-19 crisis must lead to an investment programme in the country’s health services of “historic proportions”, according to the President of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).
Dr Padraig McGarry was speaking to mark the IMO's planned AGM, which was scheduled to take place this weekend in Killarney, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak. He said it is timely that when doctors would have been debating health issues, the fragility of those services is exposed like never before.
Dr McGarry outlined priorities for the IMO which, he said, it would seek to raise with the incoming government.
* Increasing the capacity of the public hospitals;
* Investing to recruit and retain doctors to work in the health service here, including targeted measures to address the unprecedented number of consultant vacancies;
* Investing in General Practice, which has proven its pivotal position in the frontline of the public health response to Covid-19;
* Investing in and supporting public health doctors and recognising their contribution to national health policy and the well-being of the nation.
The IMO President paid tribute to the 1,100 newly qualified doctors coming into the system in the coming weeks, including a class which graduated from UCC today.
"These young people are the future and will be amongst the leaders of the profession in the years ahead. We owe it to them to provide them with every support and assistance we can. We know just how vital their role will be in the years ahead. Let us make sure we equip them to do their jobs to the best of their abilities," he said.
"The simple fact is we have far too few doctors right across our public health services; in our hospitals, in General Practice and in our public health structures. It is not enough to thank people for their efforts, Government must actually support a proactive recruitment programme and financially support a fast track programme for additional beds and services.
Dr McGarry also paid tribute to the bravery of those working in challenging conditions, such as a shortage of PPE, and warned it will "never be acceptable" to ask people to work in an unsafe environment.
"We must protect and keep our doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals and all support staff safe so they can continue to provide much needed care to patients," he said.