Programme for Government ‘disappointing’, fails to rise to post-Covid-19 challenges

Lack of recognition of public health experts in new Programme for Government regrettable

The President of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has described the lack of recognition of public health experts as a consultant specialty in the new Programme for Government as disappointing.

Given their central role in dealing with the pandemic, Dr Padraig McGarry said: “Having done so much to help the country respond to Covid-19, it is regrettable that our public health experts have not received the recognition they deserve as a consultant specialty which would help enormously to build up capacity.”

The healthcare proposals in the Programme for Government “don’t rise to the post-Covid-19 challenges facing the health services”, believes the IMO.

Speaking yesterday, June 16, Dr McGarry said: “The document is a significant disappointment. The whole country has spent three months desperately dealing with a capacity and a recruitment crisis in the health services yet the document ignores both.”

He singled out the bed crisis and capacity issues, the numbers of doctors and pay disparity, lack of general practice investment and the staffing crisis in mental health.

“We have been extremely fortunate to avoid a complete breakdown in our health services so far since the emergence of Covid-19, and this programme is relying on being similarly lucky in future,” said Dr McGarry.

“We need to immediately begin a significant capacity building programme to safeguard patients and enable doctors to do their jobs safely and effectively.”

“Physical distancing guidelines and infection control will reduce our capacity by more than 50 per cent so it is unconscionable that these problems are not being addressed through investment in our public health system. We cannot continue to rely on the private system for capacity we know we need,” he added.

Meanwhile, the issue of funding for new medicines has been underlined by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), which welcomed the ‘Programme for Government — Our Shared Future’ but said it leaves unresolved the funding for new medicines crisis.

“The new Programme for Government is totally silent on funding new medicines. Without a change in direction from the Government, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is still effectively prohibited from paying for new medicines for patients,” said Oliver O’Connor, CEO of IPHA.

IPHA has said it is ready and willing to co-fund new medicines in the October Budget. “In its first Budget, the new Government must put new funding for new medicines on the table. That can be the basis for a new Agreement — a joint funding model recognising that both industry and the State share a responsibility to give patients the same treatment options as their peers in western Europe.”

valerie.ryan@imt.ie

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