An additional 5,000 hospital beds are needed to cater for a growing and ageing population, according to the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which says 1,600 of these should be provided next year.
A full digitisation of the health service within five years is also urgently needed, the group says in its pre-budget submission.
It also recommends the appointment of 1,800 additional consultants, greater supports for GPs to invest in infrastructure and more spending on long- and short-stay care for older people.
The IMO says radical reform is now the only option for a health system that has been underfunded and under-resourced for decades.
“This year, the Government has the chance to do what successive governments have failed to do for decades: implement radical reform of our health system for the good of patients,” according to IMO president Dr John Cannon.
“We cannot accept another budget which does not adequately address our significant capacity issues.
“We need urgent investment in our medical workforce. Workforce planning requires a clear implementation plan that not only aligns the number of training places with future demand but addresses working conditions and the ongoing issues of recruitment and retention.”
The IMO is also seeking an increase in the number of doctor training posts. Given it takes up to 10 years to train medical specialists, it says this increase should be front-loaded in the first two years.
To support doctors in balancing work and family commitments, their contractual terms should allow for part-time working and job-sharing, on-site childcare should be available and the Health Service Executive should provide fully-funded, shared parental leave options.
Meanwhile, the Irish College of General Practitioners has called in its pre-budget submission for a doubling in the number of practice nurses to 4,000; more investment in primary care teams; and additional resources to boost the infrastructure available to rural GPs.