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‘Fragility’ of Irish health service exposed amid ‘heroic efforts’ – IMO President

The Covid-19 crisis must lead to an investment programme in the country’s health services of “historic proportions”, according to the President of the IMO, Dr Padraig McGarry.

The IMO’s AGM was scheduled to take place this weekend in Killarney but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr McGarry said the IMO was very conscious that at a time when its doctors would have been debating health service issues,  the “fragility of those services is being exposed as never before due to the crisis”.

“We have over 1,100 newly qualified doctors coming into our health services in the next few weeks,” he noted.

“We welcome our new colleagues and assure them of the support of all experienced doctors to help them through what will be a particularly challenging start to their careers in medicine.  

“These young people are the future and will be amongst the leaders of the profession in the years ahead.  We owe it to them to provide them with every support and assistance we can.  We know just how vital their role will be in the years ahead.  Let us make sure we equip them to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.”

Dr McGarry said: “The simple fact is we have far too few doctors right across our public health services; in our hospitals, in general practice and in our public health structures.  It is not enough to thank people for their efforts,  Government must actually support a proactive recruitment programme and financially support a fast track programme for additional beds and services. 

“The women and men of our health system have risen to the challenges that Covid-19 has presented.  We continue to work to care for our patients but we need to see ongoing support from the Government.” 

Dr McGarry, a Longford-based GP, said it was a source of great pride to the profession to see the generous, courageous response of healthcare professionals to the Covid-19 crisis.

“Everybody in the country has responded magnificently to the challenge posed by Covid-19 but the bravery, dedication and courageous selflessness of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals has been inspiring. 

“While there are undoubted challenges in terms of PPE, it is not and can never be acceptable to ask these very people to work in an unsafe environment.  We must protect and keep our doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals and all support staff safe so they can continue to provide much needed care to patients.”

Dr McGarry commended the efforts of the public in following public health advice but warned that there is no room for complacency.

“We are not yet where we need to be, so we must redouble our efforts in terms of social distancing.  It is also critically important that people do not neglect their health, either physical or mental, at this time. 

“Your GP and health services remain on call for you.  People must not ignore other health issues, particularly those who suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes or heart failure.  These conditions may worsen if ignored or untreated so please contact your GP.  Emergency departments all over the country are open and are there to help you and your loved ones. Please don’t delay seeking the care that you need. ”

The IMO would seek to negotiate with any incoming Government on the scale and focus of a “badly needed investment programme” for the health services.  Priorities for the IMO would include:

  • Increasing the capacity of the public hospitals
  • Investment to recruit and retain doctors to work in the health service here, including targeted measures to address “our unprecedented number” of consultant vacancies.
  • Investment programme for general practice which has “proven its pivotal position” in the frontline of the public health response to Covid-19.
  • Investing in and supporting public health doctors and recognising their “invaluable contribution” to national health policy and the wellbeing of the nation.

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