Doctors say additional beds provided in new winter plan are ‘insufficient’

Medical and nursing bodies argue staffing will be criticial to implement new measures

IHCA president Prof Alan Irvine said there was no clear allocation of funding to hire additional hospital consultants and other frontline professionals.  Photograph: Getty Images

IHCA president Prof Alan Irvine said there was no clear allocation of funding to hire additional hospital consultants and other frontline professionals. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Doctors have described the Government’s new plan to get the health service through the winter as disappointing and said the additional bed capacity proposed was insufficient.

Medical and nursing organisations, while supporting additional investment, highlighted the need to recruit additional personnel to operate services.

Nurses said the HSE winter plan “simply would not work” without additional staff.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said while the increased resources set out in the plan were welcome, “they must be judged against the unprecedented scale of the challenges facing the health services over the coming months”.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said the new winter plan represented “a promise to invest in services but not in the professionals required to deliver them”.

“The big promises in the plan can only be realised if we have additional consultants and healthcare professionals. The plan includes little to no specifics on this fundamental component. Building capacity requires investing in space and in professional healthcare workers.”

IMO president Dr Padraig McGarry said: “Facing into the first full winter of Covid 19, exhausted and worried after six months of non-stop pressure, our members believe that this moment demands more than temporary measures or clever ‘workarounds’ to manage what promises to be a herculean challenge.”

The general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) , Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said: “Without a plan for extra staffing, the winter plan will simply not work. Extra hospital beds are much needed, but they are meaningless and dangerous if not properly staffed and resourced.”

“For months now, we have sought a funded workforce plan from the HSE, setting out how many nurses and midwives they intend to hire in the health service. We are still awaiting any engagement.”

“This winter plan brings welcome investment, but absolutely zero clarity on how we will recruit and retain the staff to provide care.”

The IMO said the “new” beds which were set out in the plan were “temporary beds in the system”.

“There is no funding for additional sustained long-term beds in acute and other sectors. While additional beds are welcome, it is simply insufficient given (1) our long-term deficit (2) the emerging needs of the population and (3) the expected Covid surge. The proposed increase in intensive care beds is woefully inadequate given the circumstances we face.”

The IMO said one of the key structural problems in the health services was the shortage of doctors. It said there were 500 vacant consultant posts , very few incoming GPs to replace the 600 GPs due to retire over the next few years and only half the number of public health specialists as other comparable countries.”

“There is no clarity in this plan as to how we can guarantee the extra consultants, public health specialists and GPs that we need over the coming months and years.”

IHCA president Prof Alan Irvine said there was no clear allocation of funding to hire additional hospital consultants and other frontline professionals.

“Two-thirds of the € 600 million will not be deployed until 2021. These factors alone immediately cause concern around the ability of the plan to adequately address the challenge of a ‘winter like no other’.”