Ray Walley, president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), said rescuing health services would be as big a challenge for the next administration as the financial crisis has been for the last one.
While the IMO has declined to say which party’s manifesto best met its demands, it wants voters to make health a priority in the general election.
The doctors’ representative group said the crisis in public health services needed significant, immediate and sustained investment. It wants the next government to commit to realistic health funding, increase the number of beds, services, and doctors and improve patient experiences and health outcomes.
“Our familiarity with the problems in our health services have blinded us to how serious the issues have become,” said Dr Walley.
He warned that public health services were “perilously close” to collapse and in need of emergency attention. There had been years of cutbacks in essential services, a manpower crisis fuelled by record emigration of Irish-trained doctors and a 10-year long “national emergency” in emergency departments.
Dr Walley said it was indisputable that services were restricted, patients were suffering unnecessarily, health conditions were deteriorating and the crisis was deepening it was the biggest challenge facing Ireland now and in the years ahead.
“Five years ago we moved heaven and earth to rescue failed Irish banks; surely we can now do the same to rescue the Irish health service on which all of us ultimately depend,” he said.
The IMO has also urged political parties to abstain from irrational politically motivated reforms and to concentrate instead on stabilising and supporting what was a very fragile public health service.
“The crisis in our public health service is system-wide across hospitals, general practice and community services and we must have a system-wide approach to deal with it,” said Dr Walley.
He added that successive governments had invested scarce resources in pursuing politically motivated cul de sacs such as co-location, free GP care, and universal health insurance, even while the basic infrastructure of the health service was collapsing around their ears.
“What we need now is an immediate investment programme, followed by a period of sustained funding so that we can repair the damage that has been done to our health services in recent years and plan for the future health challenges we face so that we can deliver health service that works,” said Dr Walley.
The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine said that the emergency care system must be properly supported to meet the needs of the public and the legitimate aspirations of nurses and doctors working in the speciality.