Review calls for more beds and primary care
by Bernard Harbor

Fórsa has welcomed an official report that says a minimum 48% increase in the primary care workforce is needed between now and 2031, along with an extra 600 acute hospital beds. But the head of the union’s health division, Éamonn Donnelly, has also said a new approach to doctors’ contracts is needed to ease the pressure on health service waiting lists and overcrowding.

The report of the Health Service Capacity Review, which was published last week, said the public health system was operating at or above capacity across most services. It predicted that demand for services will grow significantly between now and 2031, and also called for 13,000 extra residential care beds, and a 120% increase in homecare provision, over the next 13 years.

The capacity review was commissioned by the health department on foot of a Programme for Government commitment. Its call for additional hospital bed capacity represents a break with official statements in recent years.

Speaking at a Fórsa conference for health and social care professionals last Thursday (1st February), Éamonn Donnelly championed the long-term vision of universal health care, free at the point of delivery, which was set out in last year’s Slaintecare report.

Although the report gained cross-party support, Donnelly said it could not be implemented unless GPs and consultants’ public contracts were developed to create an adequate number of doctors solely dedicated to the public health service.

“There surely is a case for state-employed GPs. Why should a patient require a private practice GP referral to access the public health system? In addition, consultant teams dedicated to the public health system would surely ease the pressure on waiting lists and overcrowding,” he said.

The report finds that, on top of existing capacity problems, Ireland’s growing and ageing population will result in a substantial increase in demand for health services. It said its estimates for required additional investment assumed that ongoing health service reforms would continue to improve and increase outputs.

Read the Health Service Capacity Review HERE.

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