Healthcare

A sys­tem strug­gling to cope

The Irish Times - - Comment & Letters -

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.

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