The Irish Medical Organisation has vowed to keep health at the forefront of the imminent general election campaign.
In a special new year statement, IMO president Dr Ray Walley said 2015 would be regarded as a year of acute crisis across the health services.
The health service was on its knees; patients were suffering unacceptably; crisis management was the order of the day and the morale of medical professionals was at an all-time low.
“Years of austerity have caused many problems across the country, but no section has suffered as much and for as long as the health services and the patients who depend on it,” said Dr Walley. The IMO chief said: “The new government will inherit a crisis of enormous proportions in this sector and must prioritise an urgent injection of resources if the system is not to collapse entirely.”
Dr Walley said there were four critical areas that the next Government must address.
- Afour-year investment programme across the health services;
- Sustained investment in bed capacity in hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitative settings;
- A resourced modern GP service for those most in need of the delivery of chronic care;
- Asolution to the ongoing retention and recruitment of doctors.
Dr Walley said the current crisis was the inevitable consequence of years of austerity.
“Everything we warned about has come to pass,” he said. Successive health ministers had focussed on day-to-day crisis management rather than on long-term strategic planning.
“The promotion of different pay for people doing the same job, overcrowding in emergency departments, uncontrollable waiting lists for out-patients, the piling on of unresourced extra demands on general practice, and the widespread culling of hospital beds, have all contributed to the current crisis.”
Dr Walley was particularly critical of the “wasted distraction” — universal health insurance. It had served to move attention away from the health services and the urgent need for action.
He also believed there was an urgent need to change the focus of the debate on health services — that it was a drain on the nation’s resources.
“Investing in health services is an investment in our economy, our community and our society and is as critical to the recovery of this country and its people as any other investment in any sector of the economy,” said Dr Walley.
The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) said GPs should have commensurate rates of pay with hospital consultants — reflecting their expertise, training and responsibility.