No cash for primary health plan

community health

IMPACT and other health unions have criticised the Government’s failure to allocate funds for a planned expansion of primary health care services. In a submission to the Oireachtas health committee, the unions warmly welcomed the initiative, but said it would fail unless a dedicated capital programme and adequate staffing – including almost 1,300 additional health and social care professionals – were funded.

The submission also criticised the lack of workforce planning and staff consultation on the plans which, over time, are meant to replace the current two-tier system with universal access to primary care including GP services, enhanced services for people with disabilities, and expansions in diagnostic, home care and palliative care.

The unions also say that enhanced health professional and GP services should be delivered by directly-employed staff, not contracted out to private providers.

And they say projected demand in the years up to 2030 means that expanded primary care services must be accompanied by enhanced hospital-based acute care. A recent report from the Economic and Social Research Institute predicted that demand for inpatient bed days would rise by up to 37% by 2030 – a period in which demand for home help hours, practice nurse visits, and GP visits would increase by up to 54%, 32% and 27% respectively.

IMPACT national secretary Eamonn Donnelly expressed disappointment that Budget 2018 contained no provision to start implementing the plan. “IMPACT has warmly welcomed the planned expansion of primary care, and the commitment to end two-tier provision. This will require hefty investment, and nobody expects that to happen overnight. But we need to start spending now – and increasing that spending over time – if we are to develop high quality health services equally available to everyone who needs them,” he said.

Read the trade union submission HERE.

For more on this story, click HERE to listen to our Audio Bulletin (the primary health care story begins at 12:24)