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The IMO has told the special Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 that a sustained investment programme for the health services is required to deal with the novel coronavirus and the “post-Covid-19 challenge”.
According to the IMO, such a programme must include the building of temporary facilities to increase capacity quickly, as well as longer-term projects such as standalone public hospitals for elective care.
Drs Matthew Sadlier and Anthony O’Connor of the IMO warned that capacity in the health services will restricted by as much as 50 per cent arising from Covid-19, to ensure care can be delivered safely.
The IMO also warned that the Government needed to urgently recruit 1,600 consultants and tackle the two-tier consultant pay issue which has long been a barrier to recruitment.
Dr O’Connor said: “Our hospitals have been overwhelmed and operating at dangerous levels of capacity for many years and Covid has exposed the underlying fragility of our services. It is untenable that we continue with historic deficits in manpower and bed capacity in the context of increasing waiting lists.”
Dr Sadlier added that “until we have effective treatment options and a vaccine, we face continued uncertainty as to the impact of a second and subsequent waves particularly as respiratory illnesses begin to circulate again as early as September.”
The IMO also told the Committee of the waiting list crisis that has been building up amid the Covid-19 crisis.
According to Dr O’Connor, “due to the cancellation of all non-urgent care across the system: 570,000 people are still waiting for an outpatient appointment and a further 230,000 people are on a waiting list for an inpatient or day-case procedure.
“Cancer screening programmes have been put on hold. GP access to diagnostics and referral pathways for all patients have effectively been closed down.”
The IMO also urged investment in public hospitals rather than applying “temporary fixes” via the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).
Dr Sadlier said the NTPF, which was originally a short-term solution, had become a long-term measure that has deprived the public system of investment.
“A policy that consistently diverts funding to NTPF in the absence of funding of our public health services will not address the problems of capacity and will not be a long term solution to waiting lists.”