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Health service ‘backed into corner’ by crisis

32nd IHCA AGM, Saturday 10 October 2020, Virtual Annual General Meeting and Conference

The pandemic has backed the Irish health service into a corner, the IHCA President Prof Alan Irvine told his Association’s annual conference. He said that current bed capacity levels are “dangerous…we need to run the capacity at around 85 per cent”.

Prof Irvine added that the long waiting lists are “reckless”

“There is no doubt that people will suffer for being too long on waiting lists for conditions that are time sensitive… and there are about 500 consultant posts vacant.

“That is unsustainable, you can’t run a service [that way].”

While calling for serious investment in beds and expansion in capacity, Prof Irvine also looked for reform in how bed capacity is presented.

“We know it is not just the number of beds, we would like to see transparency around the number of beds,” he said.

There is no doubt that people will suffer for being too long on waiting lists for conditions that are time sensitive

“Let’s have a dashboard of success rather than a trolley guard dashboard of failure, to create some sense of positivity and forward momentum in our system.

“What I would love to see is weekly or monthly updates saying ‘we added this number of ICU beds’, or ‘this number of acute care beds’, or ‘we reduced the waiting list by this much’.

“Having a sense of really moving forward – too much of the dialogue is dominated by negativity; we really need to create positivity by delivering transparency.”

Prof Irvine pointed to recently created capacity through modular units, and in the Citywest facility in Dublin, as pointers of what positive measures could be undertaken. He also said there needed to be more regional and local decision-making in the health service.

“We really want to see devolved decision making where local people are given a framework that can adapt and find local solutions in their communities.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the conference that bed capacity needed to be built up “while at the same time modernising the care pathways”.

“We have got to support people in their home, treat people in the community if we can, and then we need a world class, properly resourced hospital system for those who need it.”

He added it was “critical now that our health system is stabilised”.

“The coming months may well be the most challenging in living memory for our healthcare system.”

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