Beds and recruitment big issues
Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Sligo University Hospital, Dr Fergal Hickey outlined the need for a 'shared vision' on Ireland's health care system and cited bed capacity and recruitment as major issues.
Dr Hickey gave a Power Point presentation at the 'Health in Crisis' breakfast seminar on the issues facing the health care sector and outlined that it was not as simple as 'money or management'.
The consultant outlined that the health service had become too much of a 'political football' leading to paralysis in decision making along with poor decision making.
He added that there had been a lack of political support for interventions that have 'undeniable benefits' such as screening and vaccinations.
Speaking about day-to-day issues within the health service, Dr Hickey provided many examples of 'structural inefficiency' including 29 Emergency Departments for a population of 4.85million and the employment of agency staff. He detailed that these staff come at a cost often much greater than regular staff and often did not possess the necessary skills.
Addressing the issue of waiting times and bed capacity, Dr Hickey outlined that in a case of a person over the age of 75 waiting on a trolley for a period of over 12 hours, he believed they had 'little chance' of returning to pre-admission function level, and therefore more likely to require longterm care.
Other issues highlighted included prolonged waits for elective surgeries resulting in further unnecessary attendances.
Referring to Sláintecare, Dr Hickey noted that it was potentially an opportunity to address ongoing matters within the health service, but added that assumptions of its benefits were 'overly optimistic. Agreeing with the premise of Sláintecare, Dr Hickey spoke about the need for care being provided at the lowest level of complexity.
President of the INMO Martina Harkin- Kelly also addressed those gathered and responded to many of the issues raised including those surrounding emergency departments nationwide.
The president spoke of the need for an emergency department to only be used for treatment of life threatening emergencies.
"Unfortunately our emergency departments in Ireland have become warehousing departments for all conditions which is a move away from what the department is supposed to be."
Touching on Ireland's alcohol culture and how it impacts on emergency departments, Ms Harkin-Kelly said current incidents should not be happening.
"There's no way that you should have on a St Patrick's night, children in the resuscitation room being pumped because a 13 or 14 year old has over-consumed alcohol. That's a total misuse of what that system is meant to be for."
Speaking about the need for a shared vision in relation to the health service, the president said nurses and midwives needed to he heard.
"Sometimes I think they don't listen to us as nurses and midwives. Our politicians sometimes mention programmes and policies so as they know they will get into the psyche of the electorate and they will vote for them. Sometimes, certain issues out there are progressed that are not the issues of key importance to our society."
She added that mental health was of great importance but trailed behind in terms of policies and programmes.
She concluded, "We can educate individuals with regard to their health. We are best positioned to do so. We are a resource that are overlooked, under valued, disrespected and underestimated for our skills, competence and our knowledge."