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Healthcare reform: It's a case of 'as you were'

Outgoing president of the Irish Medical Organisation has said that little has changed for healthcare workers at the coalface during the past year.

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly
Image: Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland

DISAPPOINTED WITH THE lack of change in Ireland’s healthcare system, outgoing president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has slammed the Government for not feeding the “voracious appetite for radical reform”.

In his final speech at the organisation’s AGM yesterday, Dr Ronan Boland said “little has changed during the year”.

“…More patients, more procedures, fewer beds, fewer staff and fewer resources.”

If radical reform is at hand, it feels little closer than it did a year ago today.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the doctors’ union in Killarney, the GP recognised the changes in governance structures at corporate level but added that at the coalface it is a case of “as you were”.

Boland also criticised the lack of transformation programmes for GPs and Competition Law, as well as the current difficulties in recruiting and retaining medical expertise  in Ireland.

Calling for the Government to allow the IMO to represent GPs during negotiations with the State, Boland said progress on any reforms will be impossible until a solution is reached.

Currently, the union is not recognised by the State during monetary and price-setting discussions as GPs are seen as contractors, and not employees.

Minister for Public Health

In a separate address, incoming president Dr Paul McKeown said that reducing health inequalities is the best long-term investment that any Government can make on behalf of its citizens.

The IMO highlighted social, economic and environmental factors affecting the health of patients which were noted by doctors working in hospitals, general practices and other community settings.

“A wide range of factors such as, poverty, inequality, social exclusion, employment, income, education, housing conditions, transport access to health care, lifestyle and stress all impact significantly on an individual’s health and well-being,” said Dr McKeown.

Evidence shows that lower socio-economic groups have relatively high mortality rates, higher levels of ill health and fewer resources to adopt healthier lifestyles when compared to better-off sections of society.

He also noted that live expectancy at birth for men living in the most deprived areas of Ireland is four years less than those in the affluent areas. For women, the difference is three years.

Reducing inequalities in health is primarily a matter of fairness and social justice, he said, but added that it also leads to long-term savings in public spending.

Current estimates show that inequalities in health account for about 20 per cent of healthcare costs and 15 per cent of social security costs across the European Union.

Dr McKeown reiterated some of the recommendations the IMO made in a recent position paper on such inequalities. Among the suggestions was the establishment of a Minister of Public Health who would oversee the delivery and implementation of Public Health Policy.

Dr McKeown, a Public Health consultant was handed the IMO Presidential chain of office from Dr Boland as part of yesterday’s opening session. He is currently a senior lecturer at the Royal College of Surgeons and, in 2001, was appointed to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in Dublin.

Government likely to come under fire at IMO conference>

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