Covid-19 cannot be blamed for the deficiencies in the health care system and lengthening waiting lists, according to the former president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).
Dr Ray Walley, who is also a member of the national Covid-19 GP Liaison Committee, told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show that the HSE’s projected targets to fill consultant posts needed to be augmented.
Lessons needed to be learned from how the system had coped with Covid-19, he added.
His comments come as the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) warned that almost a million people could be on waiting lists for hospital care by the end of this year unless the HSE addressed the lack of beds and need for greater recruitment.
The consultants’ group warned on Tuesday that public hospitals were on track to suspend more than 900,000 patient appointments by the end of this year when 2020 and 2021 figures were combined and when compared with pre-Covid times.
The group expressed concern about the capacity of public hospitals to address waiting lists and meet the built-up demand created by the Covid-19 pandemic, despite assertions by the HSE last week that unprecedented funding by Government would provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change how healthcare is delivered in Ireland.
Dr Walley said out-patients were not being seen and semi-acute and chronic care cases were not being dealt with.
Preparations should be made now, the situation could not be allowed to deteriorate. It could not take 14 years to develop as had happened with the national children’s hospital, he said.
When asked about Irish doctors going abroad to work despite pay being higher here, Dr Walley said that it was not possible to compare ‘like with like’ and that while consultants in Ireland might be better paid they did not have the same supports as elsewhere which could lead to early burnout.
Ireland needed to develop its health service and not let it deteriorate like the NHS had because of the lack of resources, he warned. Doctors could not work without a team.
Consultants were going to other English speaking countries because their health systems were better resourced. Ireland should learn from other countries like Holland where the health system was funded for the long term, not in peaks and troughs.
Covid will seek out the deficiencies in the system and the more vulnerable will suffer, he said.
Dr Walley paid tribute to the public health system staff who had provided “heroic” service over the past year. “We need to learn and to move forward and to fund appropriately.”
The proper infrastructure has to be built, he added.