Doctors warn against private practice curbs

IMO president predict shortage of specialists if Sláintecare proposals are implemented

Incoming IMO president Dr Peadar Gilligan has warned that doctors across the various medical disciplines are facing grave challenges. Photograph: Shane O’Neill

Incoming IMO president Dr Peadar Gilligan has warned that doctors across the various medical disciplines are facing grave challenges. Photograph: Shane O’Neill

 

The health service faces a severe shortage of heart and orthopaedic specialists if proposed restrictions on private practice are introduced, doctors have warned.

Consultant members of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said proposals under the Slaintecare reform programme to end the treatment of fee-paying patients in public hospitals would exacerbate the current situation in which about 400 consultant positions are vacant across the country.

The chairman of the IMO’s consultant committee Dr Clive Kilgallen said for doctors the flexibility “to do a little more in your own time, in your own way” was very important professionally.

IMO president Dr Peadar Gilligan said the Slaintecare report itself had acknowledged that there was an international market for medical professionals.

“A lot of jurisdictions have a situation where a person can work within the public system but also generate additional augmented income. So what we would be trying to do (under the Slaintecare proposals) as a nation would be essentially to try to attract people from that background to come to work in Ireland and saying to them your access to private practice would be profoundly limited.

“The sort of specialties that I think would be most affected would be orthopaedics , cardiology and other specialties that involves procedural work and a lot of surgery. We really are going to be challenged to recruit people to those areas.”

In his presidential address to the IMO conference on Saturday night Dr Gilligan said the medical profession was under attack and that doctors were “sick of so-called reform”.

He said reform should be change with a view to improvement. “What we have in the health service is often change without evidence of improvement. I am sick of doing more with less, I am sick of being told what I should do by people who have never done it. I, like many doctors, am sick of those who could help to improve the health system not doing their part and sometimes doing the opposite. It is not just change we need but demonstrable improvement and that improvement will require resourcing.”

Dr Gilligan said the country needed about 7,000 additional hospital beds and not the 2,500 proposed by the Government, and that the beds are required to deal adequately with an increasing and aging population.