Irish Hospital Consultants Association responds to winter plan
“A promise to invest in services but not in the professionals required to deliver them”
“We must be honest as to how achievable it is to keep the promises made in this plan given that 500 consultant posts remain unfilled” – IHCA President
Commenting on today’s winter plan, Professor Alan Irvine, President of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said:
“The Covid-19 pandemic has underlined how dependent our society and economy are on frontline healthcare professionals. The government’s winter plan is a welcome recognition that the system is playing catch-up, but the race will not be won this or indeed any winter unless and until we invest in the people patients depend upon.
“This plan is 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.
“There is 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’.
“The patient waiting list currently stands at over 840,000 people. The plan appears to focus on just one stream of those patients waiting—emergency departments—rather than the overall waiting list, which has grown substantially during the period of the pandemic. The allocation of just over €4 million to tackling emergency department waiting times is concerning.
“On the surface, the headline promise of 1,500 additional beds is striking and would go a long way to addressing concerns, but looking deeper, it appears that over 800 of these beds are already in the system. We urgently need clarity on how many of these headline 1,500 beds are new and how many are a reallocation of existing, previously announced beds.
“Now more than ever, we need to level with people. We must be honest as to how achievable it is to keep the promises made in this plan given that 500 consultant posts remain unfilled.
“We recognise that these are challenging times. This winter plan has merits and the fact that it is published in September rather than in the grip of winter is very welcome. At its core, however, healthcare is people looking after people and this plan as currently set-out fails to respond to this fundamental”.