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Uncertain times

Consultants are awaiting the results of their court battle against the HSE over withheld pay increases, while NCHDs and nurses have joined public sector colleagues in the last couple of weeks in balloting for industrial action over pay and conditions. Healthcare professionals have had enough of broken promises and contracts, and are making it clear to the Government that enough is enough.

Much lip-service has been paid in the last two years to making the Irish health service a more attractive place to work for doctors and nurses, and while some positive moves have been made in relation to salary scales, these actions are simply not enough, as is clear from the ongoing recruitment difficulties.

Indeed, retention is a serious problem as those currently working within the system seek better conditions abroad, not least GPs who are increasingly fed up with the lack of progress on the long-awaited new GP contract. Cynics have pointed out that the Government is in no hurry to have a new contract due to financial implications, but can the costs of not having a new contract on GP retention and pressure on the acute sector be allowed to continue?

This all comes at a time of record-breaking public waiting lists — over 535,000 people are awaiting an inpatient or outpatient appointment — and persistently high trolley numbers and delayed discharges, as well as controversy over a now thankfully withdrawn memo on ejecting hospital patients fit for discharge using “minimal force”.

Keeping healthcare staff happy and at adequate levels to meet growing patient demand is vital to our health services functioning in any way successfully. Unfortunately, going on strike has been the only way for some public sector groups to achieve their aims. Will it be the same for healthcare workers, who are always loath to take such steps in light of the importance of their services? Let’s hope not.

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Media coverage has been dominated this month by the US Presidential election. What will the election of Donald Trump mean for the healthcare of Americans, and indeed the conditions for the many Irish doctors working and training in the country? He has already indicated his desire to get rid of certain visa schemes and crack down on immigration, which does not bode well for Irish trainees’ US plans.

While Hillary Clinton had detailed plans for expanding and refining Obamacare, Trump’s plans merely consisted of repealing it and replacing it with “something terrific”, the details of which remain unknown.

It will be interesting to see what he actually does when he comes to office and if his trade plans for making America more tax-competitive for large companies will have an impact on the pharmaceutical landscape of Ireland, where so many major American pharma companies have a large presence.

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