Doctors warn of looming ‘healthcare tsunami’ for ageing population

Ireland faces a “healthcare tsunami” because of its rapidly ageing population, doctors warned last night.

The Irish Medical Organisation wants general practice to be given the resources to play a full role in tackling the looming crisis.

Chair of the IMO’s GP committee, Padraig McGarry, said general practice needed a strategic investment to deal with the inevitable rise in chronic illnesses.

“With every €10m invested in general practice there is a consequent freeing up of €50m in the hospital system. It is not a saving but it does allow for hospital systems to treat cases of greater acuity in a timely manner,” said Dr McGarry.

He was speaking ahead of a seminar in Dublin last night on ‘Solving the Chronic Disease Problem Through General Practice’ which was opened by Health Minister Leo Varadkar.

Dr McGarry said, by age 65, 62% of people would have two or more chronic diseases, with the proportion increasing to 82% by age 85.

“Our population is ageing rapidly and with it there will be associated healthcare requirements,” he said.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar

The Longford GP said that it made economic sense to have general practices involved in chronic care management: all international evidence supported the management of chronic disease in a general practise setting.

Waterford GP Austin Byrne said the number of people over the age of 65 was expected to increase from 11% in 2006 to 26% in 2026, and more people than ever before would live beyond 80.

“The number of people aged 80 or older will double in the next 20 years and the older old pose huge challenges in terms of chronic care,”said Dr Byrne.


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