The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has asserted that: “Without doctors there is no future healthcare”, in its pre-Budget submission today and has called for a complete revision of the budget for health services.
The report emphasised the need for further investment in recruitment and retention, as current conditions are taking a financial and psychological toll on doctors.
Dr Ann Hogan stated: “We’re now seeing the cumulative impact of almost a decade of austerity in the health services, an ageing population, and a manpower crisis among doctors.
Any of these challenges would be difficult to address in isolation, together they are potentially devastating”.
A large number of GPs are scheduled to retire over the next few years and the HSE has projected that there will be shortage of over 2,000 doctors by 2025.
A significant contributor to long waiting times is understaffing; in accordance with the Hanly report, Ireland requires approximately 4,400 consultants, while at present there are only around 2,800.
Additionally, up to 400 approved consultant posts remain unfilled or filled on a temporary basis by locum staff, shortages that the organisation claims have been caused by remuneration and working conditions lagging behind other English-speaking countries globally.
The report states: “Compared to European counterparts, we have among the lowest number of doctors employed and among the lowest number of acute beds.
“Our young doctors are fleeing the system, no longer willing to tolerate current working conditions”.
In 2015 the Irish medical register suffered an exit rate of 8.7 per cent of doctors, aged between 25 and 34, which means that roughly one in every eleven doctors within this age bracket were leaving the country to work abroad.
The IMO commented: “Doctors don’t want to work in a system where they have to apologise to every patient they see”.
Information and communications technology in hospitals was also criticised as being insufficient and contributing to Ireland’s waiting list crisis: “You might as well be walking into a hospital in the 1890s”.
Costs of between €647m and 875m have been estimated for the establishment of Electronic Health Records over a five-year period.
Also among the IMO’s recommendations was a working group to examine pharmaceutical expenditure and to ensure affordability. The government currently spends nearly €2 billion on pharmaceuticals and medical devices each year, amounting to 14 per cent of the government’s overall health expenditure.
The IMO expressed concern at the cost of these innovative medicines and their potential to threaten the stability of health care spending.
Dr Hogan alluded to recent high profile debates over the reimbursement of Orkambi and Sofosbuvir, stating: “New drugs have the potential to change lives. However, they come at a prohibitive cost”.