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The cost to postgraduate medical training bodies of responding to the Covid-19 pandemic could be up to €4 million, according to Mr Martin McCormack, Honorary Secretary of the Forum of Irish Postgraduate Medical Training Bodies.
Mr McCormack informed the Medical Independent: “Whilst the colleges have been prudent in their expenditure the final cost of dealing with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic could be as high as €4 million.”
On behalf of the Forum, he called for immediate “financial respite” measures to ensure a strong and speedy rebound for the sector. “The scale and timing of a stimulus package for the sector will impact our healthcare system for years to come.”
Mr McCormack, who is also CEO of the College of Anesthesiologists, said the biggest crisis facing this country in decades had demonstrated “the professionalism and value of senior medical leadership”.
The postgraduate training bodies focused their initial response on “ensuring that patients receive the best possible care from our trainees, members, and fellows”.
“We modified our training rotations and evaluations, cancelled many educational meetings and examinations and are delivering existing and new training courses in new ways in order to meet the current national needs.
“By doing so we cancelled educational and exam activities that would normally make a significant financial contribution to the operation of our colleges and incurred additional expenses in developing and delivering new Covid-19 specific training and courses. Our communications and media expertise costs have increased significantly due to the need to engage with the media and provide information to the public and doctors at the frontline.”
He continued: “We are providing up-to-date clinical education on a twice-weekly basis which is shared with all doctors and the incoming medical interns. We led out on the creation of a rapid response unit to redeploy doctors to critical care units that were experiencing surges to their ICU capacity. In some cases, we have had to provide daily updates to ensure those at the frontline were fully informed when heading into practice.”
Collectively the colleges have also been working to ensure doctors’ access to wellness and counselling supports.
The bodies are planning modifications to all educational events due to Covid-19, with social distancing restrictions requiring a move to virtual learning environments.
“Some courses traditionally have face-to-face contact, where skills demonstration point-of-view or where experiential team-based learning (eg, simulation) is a core part of the course,” outlined Mr McCormack.
“These courses are now being redesigned in time for the NCHD changeover in July 2020, which marks the beginning of a new training year. Colleges are accelerating digital transformation programmes to deliver examinations and a range of mandatory courses online.”
The postgraduate training bodies have had ongoing concerns about the level of HSE funding for training, with no increase in provision for four years.
In this time, the bodies have taken on more trainees and evolved and improved training programmes and the technology to support these programmes, he said.
The Forum has raised these financial concerns with the HSE.
A HSE spokesperson told this newspaper: “The training bodies have made contact with the HSE in relation to Covid-19 costs and discussions are ongoing.”