A system struggling to cope
The Economic and Social Research Institute(ESRI)haspublishedareportcontaining the most comprehensive mapping of activity in the Irish healthcare system. It provides annual projections of demand for health and social care services in the Republic from 2015 to 2030.
With the number of people aged 85 and over projected to double, demand for home-help and residential care in nursing homes is projected to increase by up to 54 per cent. Demand for public hospital services is projected to increase by up to 37 per cent, while the need for general practitioner visits is set to increase by up to 27 per cent.
As a result, the ESRI says there will be a need for significant additional expenditure, capital investment and greater staffing levels in the health and social care sectors. Dr Maev-Ann Wren, ESRI senior research officer and lead author, said the research showed that “expansion will be required in most forms of care to meet the needs of a rapidly growing and ageing population”.
Looked at in the context of existing deficiencies in our health services, the report is a reminder that inertia is not an option. The system cannot cope with current demand. And its infrastructure is crumbling, with healthcare professionals emigrating, GP services contracting and an ongoing shortage of acute hospital beds.
There is much symmetry between the ESRI report and the Sláintecare report published earlier this year by the Oireachtas committee into the future of our health system. In particular, the latest report reinforces the Sláintecare call for a 10-year development plan for our health service. It emphasises how incremental but piecemeal growth in services is no longer viable.
The Government, with cross-party support, must now move from analysis and report-gathering to definitive action based on this comprehensive evidence. Crucially, it must commit to multi-annual funding, with targeted capital investment, to deliver a significantly expanded and viable service capable of meeting the increase in demand identified by the ESRI.