Thursday 23 May 2019

Health care strategy 'tactical'

Martin critical of FG response

Dr. Fergal Hickey, Ray MacSharry, Cllr Rosaleen O’Grady, Cllr Tom MacSharry and Brendan McCormack at Friday’s ‘Health in Crisis’ breakfast seminar in the Southern Hotel. Pic: Donal Hackett
Dr. Fergal Hickey, Ray MacSharry, Cllr Rosaleen O’Grady, Cllr Tom MacSharry and Brendan McCormack at Friday’s ‘Health in Crisis’ breakfast seminar in the Southern Hotel. Pic: Donal Hackett

Ciara Galvin

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin has said he believes the Government's implementation of the Sláintecare Strategy is a 'tactical move' by Fine Gael.

The Deputy told The Sligo Champion that the strategy, which outlines goals including providing the majority of care at, or closer to home and reducing long waiting times within the health service, was a way for Fine Gael to 'manage' the health crisis in the run up to the local and European elections.

Referencing Health Economist Dr Richéal Burns, Martin said it remains to be seen if there will be any follow through following numerous reports into the health sector.

"There's a huge crisis in terms of acute hospital beds and therefore the emergency departments are under huge strain and you get a lot of inefficiencies arising out of that then. People staying too long when they don't have to."

Martin said there is not enough emphasis on homecare packages or step down facilities. "There aren't enough step down facilities to facilitate people coming out of hospital if they're alone or if remaining family members are not in a position to be of assistance to them."

He added. "There has been a significant cut back of home help hours and I think there is a lack of any comprehensive approach to the homecare package side and the community care side. That would help to move people out of hospital much more quickly when their acute phase is over."

Commenting on The Sligo Champion's reporting of a 92-year-old man's 75 day hospital stay though being fit for discharge after seven days, Deputy Martin said it was 'a scandal'. "It is inefficient and wasteful. It's a lack of joined up thinking. If you look at the Sláinte report, everyone has agreed that we have to invest more in community and homecare. If you don't do that you'll end up with these inefficiencies emerging all of the time."

Contacting hospitals around the country the Fianna Fáil leader said he is being told the same thing from each hospital.

"They've all been saying they can't move people on when they've finished their care and therefore that's creating log jams all over."

Referring to suggestions from former nurse and party colleague in relation to the administering of some medical services outside a hospital setting, Martin said she made a 'very good point'. "IVs for respiratory conditions should be administered in the community settings and nursing home settings. There's too much admission in the hospitals in situations which don't necessarily have to go into the emergency department."

He acknowledged that too many elderly people are waiting far too long in emergency departments around certain conditions that could be dealt with either in a district hospital or a community setting.

Asked why these issues haven't been dealt with up to now, Martin said it is down to a combination of 'money and management'.

"It will take more funding because we are living longer, we have an aging population. They [Government] know when they're setting out the national service plan that there's not going to be enough for elderly care, money for community care, so they make do with what they have and they ration.

And what will it take to change the current situation?

"Overall it will take a very strong commitment and prioritisation of services above anything else in our budgetary plans in the years ahead." He continued, "When politicians are going to the door they have to outline that to improve services we need to invest more as well as serious efficiencies being achieved. If you invest more initially you will get the efficiencies then."

Sligo Champion