Irish Times view on the health service: acknowledging modest progress

Recent developments offer some hope for the future though no certainty

Revised Labour Court proposal: “Among the key recommendations are significant pay improvements, which offer the prospect of better nurse retention as well as a carrot to attract home nursing graduates who have opted to work abroad.” File photograph: Getty

Revised Labour Court proposal: “Among the key recommendations are significant pay improvements, which offer the prospect of better nurse retention as well as a carrot to attract home nursing graduates who have opted to work abroad.” File photograph: Getty

 

Could the tide be slowly turning for our beleaguered public health system? Recent developments offer some hope, albeit no certainty, for the future.

The decision by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation to recommend acceptance of a revised Labour Court proposal on pay and staffing issues is welcome. Among the key recommendations are significant pay improvements, which offer the prospect of better nurse retention as well as a carrot to attract home nursing graduates who have opted to work abroad.

In a similar vein, a negotiated agreement between the Irish Medical Organisation and Government may help stem the tide of GP graduate emigration. By reversing substantial cuts introduced at the height of the financial crisis, the deal should provide financial stability for practices. It should also make the many vacant GMS posts around the State more attractive to applicants, including those who have moved abroad to work.

The health service behemoth may be turning and it is appropriate to recognise progress

The deal, on which doctors have yet to vote, also includes additional funding for new community- based services. This will benefit patients and enable GPs to move from a long period of retrenchment to one of practice development.

However, the scale of manpower challenges facing the health service was underlined by a new workforce report published by the Medical Council. It identifed an over-reliance on doctors who are trained overseas and challenges in recruiting and retaining Irish graduates.

“The depth of medical emigration is reflected in the report’s finding that more than 2,800 doctors withdrew from the medical register between 2015 and 2017.” File photograph: Getty
“The depth of medical emigration is reflected in the report’s finding that more than 2,800 doctors withdrew from the medical register between 2015 and 2017.” File photograph: Getty

The depth of medical emigration is reflected in the report’s finding that more than 2,800 doctors withdrew from the medical register between 2015 and 2017. The main reasons cited for doing so included lack of respect by senior colleagues, workplace understaffing, and excessive working hours. Medical Council president Dr Rita Doyle noted that cultural challenges needed to be addressed.

The health service behemoth may be turning and it is appropriate to recognise progress. However, it will need significantly more attention before it finds a firm course to recovery.

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