Thousands of additional hospital beds needed, doctors warn

In pre-budget submissions, IMO and IHCA urge Government to invest for years ahead

 

The State will need significantly more than the 2,500 additional public hospital beds that the Government is planning to put in place over the next decade or so, doctors have warned.

In its pre-budget submission, the Irish Medical Organisation said Ministers needed to recognise that the capital requirement for more than 2,500 additional beds - set out in its capacity review earlier this year - was “at the lower end of the predictable scale and was based on all current healthcare initiatives achieving their stated goals”.

“It is therefore necessary to recognise that future in-patient bed requirements are likely to be significantly higher,” the doctors’ trade union said.

In a separate submission, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said the acute hospital budget for next year need to include significantly increased frontline investment as a means to end underresourcing and to properly satisfy the actual demand for acute hospital care.

“Medical inflation and increased demand for care due to demographic factors need to be funded in full, unlike previous years,” it said.

The IHCA also recommended a full merging, instead of the proposed geo-alignment, of hospital groups and community healthcare organisations “to reduce administrative layers, duplication and overlaps thereby increasing efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of care”.

Frontloaded

It said the additional 2,600 acute beds and 4,500 additional long term and short term residential beds proposed by the Government needed to be frontloaded so they were in place well before 2027.

The IHCA said many of the estimated 500 consultant posts which were currently vacant were being filled by doctors recruited through agencies at a cost of three times the official rates paid to consultants who were taken on in the public health service since 2012.

“The current two- tier pay system for consultants is the root cause of the recruitment and retention crisis.”

“The State needs to urgently end the discrimination against new entrant consultants who are on salaries significantly below those of their pre-October 2012 colleagues, with the current pay differential totalling up to 57 per cent.”

The IMO also called for an end to lower pay rates for consultants appointed after 2012 as well as the negotiation of a new contacts for doctors.

“These contracts must feature competitive terms and conditions to protect the health service from losing qualified, capable staff to other English-speaking countries,” it said.

The IMO also called for the construction of stand-alone public hospitals for elective, ambulatory and diagnostic care and investment in 10,500 long-term residential care beds and 600 short-term rehabilitation beds.

The IMO also said that “significant investment must be made in the recruitment and retention of our medical workforce to ensure that the Irish health services are fully staffed with appropriately qualified and experienced medical professionals”. Its president Dr Peadar Gilligan said that “ unless Budget 2019 increases the allocation to the health service to sufficiently meet demand ,it will in reality be a further cut to the health service”.