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The IMO has said it is “disappointed” with the HSE’s Winter Plan.
Dr Padraig McGarry, President of the IMO, said that while the increased resources are welcome, they must be judged against the unprecedented scale of the challenges facing the health services over the coming months.
Dr McGarry said: “Facing into the first full winter of Covid 19, exhausted and worried after six months of non-stop pressure, our members believe that this moment demands more than temporary measures or clever “workarounds” to manage what promises to be a herculean challenge.”
“Now is the time to seriously invest in long term sustainable solutions for our health services. We must have a properly resourced service to keep our population well and to enable economic recovery. We are now paying the price for repeatedly long-fingering solutions to the crises in respect of beds and recruitment which have been festering for a decade…that is now directly restricting our ability to meet the health service demands of the Covid 19 era.”
Dr McGarry said that the upcoming budget would now be key in ensuring that the shortcomings of this plan are addressed, and the health services are adequately resourced for the longer term.
“This is only emergency funding to get the health services through the Winter period and is equivalent to about 3 per cent of the annual budget for the health services,” according to the IMO.
“There is still no clear long-term plan for how the HSE will manage the very challenging environment of delivering COVID and non COVID Care.
The IMO states the “new” beds being announced are temporary beds in the system.
“There is no funding for additional sustained long-term beds in acute and other sectors. While additional beds are welcome, it is simply insufficient given (1) our long-term deficit (2) the emerging needs of the population and (3) the expected COVID surge. The proposed increase in intensive care beds is woefully inadequate given the circumstances we face.”
The IMO states one of the key structural problems in the health services is the shortage of doctors; 500 vacant consultant posts, very few incoming GPs to replace the 600 GPs due to retire over the next few years and only half the number of public health specialists as other comparable countries.
“There is no clarity in this plan as to how we can guarantee the extra consultants, public health specialists and GPs that we need over the coming months and years and no commitment to reversing the longstanding and well known impediments to recruiting the doctors that we need, now more than ever. It is with grave concern that we note there is no funding to address the issue of consultant status for our public health doctors who we are relying upon to lead us through Covid-19.
“In addition, there does not appear to be any plans for emergency capacity for when doctors become ill or have to isolate due to Covid-19. This will directly and immediately impact on capacity and demands extra resources to allow the system to continue even when doctors and other healthcare staff cannot attend work. This is all the more vital as our doctors are exhausted after the first wave of Covid, and notwithstanding their professionalism and dedication, we cannot expect that they will be able to simply rise to the challenge again.”
GPs and care in the community
The IMO states the introduction of direct access to a range of diagnostics for GPs is welcome and something the IMO has been looking for, for many years but again we have concerns that this is a short-term measure and must be accompanied by rapid clinical pathways for patients.
“We are disappointed that there are no specific winter supports for GPs and this will be needed with the move of care to general practice and the community. One impact of COVID on the workload in general practice has been to extend the working day by at least two hours for each GP and we need to ensure we can fund additional nursing, medical and administrative support.”