Political interference ‘limiting potential of doctors’

Sadlier says IMO needs to regain trust of members after McNeice departure

Minister of State at the Department of Health Alex White who will address the IMO conference tomorrow. Photograph: The Irish Times

Minister of State at the Department of Health Alex White who will address the IMO conference tomorrow. Photograph: The Irish Times

Fri, Apr 25, 2014, 14:14

Political interference in the health service is limiting the potential of doctors to treat patients properly, the president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said.

Addressing the annual conference of the organisation in Maynooth, Dr Matthew Sadlier pointed to the Government’s controversial plans for the introduction of free GP care for children under age 6.

He also questioned the proposals put forward by the Minister for Health James Reilly for universal health insurance.

He said the Government was seeking to force through a highly questionable insurance model of health service financing without any tolerance for exploring alternative views on the best way to finance the country’s healthcare needs”.

Dr Sadlier also said that the IMO

had been forced to take industrial action in recent months to force the Government to cease making non-consultant hospital doctors work dangerously long working hours.

Dr Sadlier told the conference that there were clear similarities between the issues that dominated the public debate on the health service 30 years ago and those in the headlines today. He said these included waiting lists, over-crowding, lack of resources, excessive working hours for doctors and poor political management of services, stemming from politicians prioritising short-term vote gathering over longer-term improvements to health.

He said other key issues were the seemingly never-ending quest to build the national children’s hospital and the creation of a fair health service that prioritised patients on the basis of medical need.

“Most of these same issues were central to political debate 30 years ago. All of them have featured in the numerous election campaigns that have been waged over those three decades. But unfortunately we are no nearer their resolution today than we were in 1984.”

“No doubt different factors have contributed to this failure:

* healthcare is expensive and while there have been wonderful and extraordinary advances in medicine, they have typically come at a significant price,

* mainly due to the improvements in health care our population - especially our elderly population - has grown significantly over those three decades.”

“But while these factors have contributed to the situation, it is clear that the defining failures throughout the period have been the failure of political ambition, political vision and political will to do what is necessary to create a world-class service both for the public who rely on it and for the professionals who work in it.”

Dr Sadlier also said the IMO was still recovering from revelations regarding the departure of its former chief executive George McNeice who left with a retirement package of more than €9 million.

He said he knew full well the depth of anger across the membership at what had emerged and he was aware that the organisation had to work hard to regain the confidence and trust of members.