Doctors are looking to double intensive care beds in hospitals, saying decades of underinvestment left health services on the brink of collapse during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the Irish Examiner reports, the Irish Medical Organization (IMO) said next month’s budget was to mark the start of an era of substantial and ongoing funding for health services.
According to IMO President Dr Ina Kelly, the goal must be to strengthen the health service so that it is never again so vulnerable in the face of a national emergency.
Health services face challenges “across the board” and significant investments in medical personnel, bed capacity, general practice and mental health services are needed, Dr Kelly said.
While the services received substantial financial support during the pandemic, the need for such support was largely due to decades of underinvestment, she added.
“The fragility of our health services was exposed during the pandemic and without the exceptional efforts of doctors and other professionals across the country and enormous temporary financial support, services may have collapsed completely,” said Dr Kelly.
As it stands, services have been severely weakened and patients are being forced into increasingly long waiting lists, which should put a leading EU state to shame.
The IMO budget presentation identified key areas for investment, highlighting the need to recruit more medical staff, with over 700 consultant positions currently vacant on a permanent basis.
To do this, the organization wants an immediate cancellation of the 30% “discriminatory” salary cut imposed on new HSE consultants since 2012 and a new consultant contract “adapted to use”.
Regarding acute care bed capacity and diagnostic infrastructure, IMO calls for a multi-year investment program, which would include 5,000 additional public acute care beds, including a doubling of intensive care capacity to 550 intensive care beds in the hospital system.
The organization also calls for diagnostic, radiological and laboratory requirements to be adequately resourced.
Investment in general medicine and the transfer of care to the community would include general practice supports to employ additional staff, incentives to invest in infrastructure development and supports to allow new practices to remain financially viable, according to the report. IMO.