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IMO President expresses major concerns over work of Oireachtas Committee on Future of Healthcare

Speaking at the IMO AGM in Galway today, Dr Duddy said that the Committee had made a fundamental error by deciding not to cost its recommendations. He said the notion of mapping out a ten year strategy for healthcare was “admirable”, but doing so “without paying any attention to the resource issue is just meaningless and has significantly undermined the value of the exercise”.

The IMO was concerned at recent leaks of the Committee’s likely recommendations, said Dr Duddy. “While we will have to await the final publication of the report, what we are hearing so far is far from encouraging.”

Dr Duddy cited, in particular, the risk with rumoured proposals to legislate in order to oblige hospitals to perform within set times. He described the proposal as impractical. “You can’t even begin to deliver on this proposal without an explosion in theatre capacity in this country. Even if all operating theatres were opened and fully staffed next week, it could not happen. There simply isn’t the physical space in operating theatres or surgical wards to cater for all the patients who would require surgery in this time-frame. If hospitals are fined or punished for failing to meet this target, it will have a negative impact on the whole hospital. This kind of target-driven culture will not help patients, and could ultimately harm them, as occurred in Mid-Staffordshire.”

Dr Duddy described the current state of the health services as one of constant crisis. “When there are 602 patients waiting on trolleys for a hospital bed, does the word crisis even go far enough? Does it convey the misery and suffering of patients waiting on trolleys for inpatient care? Perhaps we should use words like disaster or catastrophe. However, all three of these words imply an acute moment in time. In the Irish health service, this situation has become the constant and the norm. And it needs to change.”

An underlying factor in the ongoing crisis was the consistent lack of capital investment over decades, he added. “Capital investment has remained static at 5 per cent of overall funding for the last forty years. This is clearly inadequate and has prevented our health service from expanding to meet the demands of a growing population which now stands at over 4.7 million people. We simply do not have the physical capacity in the secondary or primary care settings to meet the demand for medical services. A major investment programme in the public system is required.”

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