The Chair of the IMO consultant committee has said “without radical action” the “chaos” experienced in hospitals across the country this month will reoccur.
The past number of weeks has seen record levels of overcrowding.
In a statement, Prof Matthew Sadlier argued the current situation is not simply a temporary winter crisis or a result of a ‘perfect storm’ of Covid-19, influenza and respiratory illnesses.
“These are merely the proximate causes of this latest crisis,” according to Prof Sadlier.
“Nor is this crisis limited to emergency departments or trolley numbers – these are simply a reflection of a wider problem with the health services.
“The real issue is that successive governments have accepted as ‘good enough’ a health service which was – and is – demonstrably unfit-for-purpose, where almost a million patients are stuck on waiting lists, where vacancies exist for almost 1,000 consultant posts (which fail even to attract applicants), where chaotic scenes in emergency departments and hundreds of patients on trolleys are now routine and where staff face unprecedented levels of burnout, stress and low morale as they once again listen to politicians making excuses for our woefully inadequate health services.”
Prof Sadlier said such a health service would always be vulnerable to an increase in demand.
“Since Christmas, the only thing that has prevented the health services from tipping over into complete chaos was the herculean efforts of our doctors and other health care professionals,” he said.
“We saw that again last weekend with the increased number of discharges from hospitals which in turn freed up beds to allow new patients to be admitted. Some have argued that experience confirms the benefit of having consultants working at weekends.
“However, consultants always work weekends. The difference last weekend was that the Government made funding available to source step-down facilities for discharged patients and whole teams of people were available in the hospital network to facilitate the discharge of those patients. The ongoing myth of consultants not being available is just that – a myth. Unfortunately, with staffing numbers as constrained as they currently are, the type of once-off-response we saw last weekend cannot be relied upon on an ongoing basis.
“It also remains to be clarified as to what impact recent events will have on the budget for healthcare in the coming year. We ask the Government to make it clear that the recent exceptional measures will be financed independently of the normal budgetary process for healthcare.”