The country’s largest nursing and midwifery organisation yesterday criticised the government-formation deal agreed between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, claiming the document is “light” on proposals for the future of healthcare.
Around 350 delegates are attending the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s annual conference at the INEC in Killarney, Co Kerry.
The agenda for the three-day conference is dominated by calls for pay restoration to pre-recession levels, a reduction in working hours, and an increase in staffing levels.
General secretary Liam Doran said the INMO was disappointed in what had emerged to date on the political parties’ discussion on health.
He said: “We gather today searching for evidence, based upon the last eight weeks, that our political parties in their discussions about forming a new government get it, in terms of the challenges facing the health system.
“It seems to have been very light in terms of the discussions on health and what needs to be done.
“What needs to be done costs resources. We need 1,500 additional acute beds, we need 2,000 continuing long-term care beds, we need more public health nurses in the community, we need more consultants across the extended day, we need more allied health professionals to allow diagnostics to be available across the extended day,” said Mr Doran.
“Those are the realities. You can’t build a health service to meet capacity without building the workforce to meet that capacity, and we don’t get a sense, from what the would-be government parties have said to date, that health is really being understood by them.”
Mr Doran said a study on access to healthcare, released by the Irish Cancer Society last week, showed that “money can buy you life” because the public health system was not large enough to meet the demand.
He described the document outlining the agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail as “completely minimalist” on healthcare. “It is completely inadequate in relation to what is required for health. If anyone needed to gather together for 84 days or whatever it was to decide we need multi-year funding for the health system, then you haven’t been living on planet Earth,” he said.
“The document I have seen to date is ‘health light’. It is light on reform, light on change, and it is light on what actually has to be done to tackle the problems that our members experience every day and, more importantly, what patients encounter everyday.
“What we need is a single-tiered system where money does not buy you speed of access, where you have a system wide enough and deep enough to deal with people as they present. Not where, if you’re elderly or frail you’re sharing a cubicle, every day for the last 12 years in many hospitals.
“If TDs had to share their offices, three or four of them, there’d be uproar and I guarantee there would be a Dáil committee building a four-storey building on Kildare St before the week is out.
“We had days and weeks of talks about water charges, and all those things are important, but while we’re having those discussions there were between 300 and 400 people on trolleys. It didn’t seem to register on their Richter scale.”
Mr Doran suggested political parties drop their hostilities and preconditions with a view to working together to develop a long-term heath strategy.
“We’ve been talking about this problem for years and we will be talking about it again until someone takes this giant leap and that giant leap, in this new political dynamic, is there to be grasped if we have people willing to grasp it,” he said.
INMO vice-president Geraldine Talty said while water is an important resource, little attention was given in the government talks to health.
“Personally I think the public would be better served if the 80-plus days that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael sat putting a government together if instead they went and spent some time in the ED department with patients who spent days on end on trolleys,” she said.
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