HSE chief says €9bn needed to end hospital overcrowding crisis

Tony O'Brien said the massive investment would be needed over a 10-year period

HSE chief says €9bn needed to end hospital overcrowding crisis

HSE chief Tony O Brien arriving at Leinster House in Dublin, 02-02-2016. Image: Leah Farrell / RollingNews

The head of the HSE has said Ireland’s health service will need an injection of €9bn in capital spending in order to end hospital overcrowding.

Writing in the Sunday Business Post, Tony O'Brien said the investment would need to be made over a 10-year period adding that a "multi-pronged" approach was required to resolve problems in the health service.

He said the money is needed to improve existing facilities and upgrade equipment and IT systems.

The figures Mr O'Brien is recommending would represent a doubling of the government's current annual level of capital investment in the health service.

He said the problems in Ireland’s health system were partly a reflection of a vastly improved life expectancy for those over 65.

“I recently informed the Future of Healthcare Committee that our health services model, as it currently exists, is no longer fit for purpose,” Mr O’Brien wrote in the Sunday Business Post.

“It was designed for a time when we had a different demographic profile.”

HSE overcrowding apology 

Mr O’Brien called for greater medical treatment within the community rather than in acute hospitals - but warned that the health service cannot be transformed without large-scale investment.

Mr O’Brien apologised to patients and staff for the distressing scenes of overcrowding at hospitals throughout the country over the New Year period.

“I will be apologising to the public next year, and for many years to come unless, unless we shift our model of healthcare from its current hospital-centric focus and towards the community,” he said.

GP-led primary care system

This morning the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) welcomed Mr O’Brien’s comments and backed calls for a decisive shift to GP-led Primary Care treatment - provided staff and facilities are properly resourced.

NAGP President Dr. Emmet Kerin said forward planning and financial investment will be crucial in order to move towards a GP-led primary care system.

“This change must take place if we are to provide a health service that is safe, efficient and effective,” said Mr Kerin.

“I welcome Mr. O’Brien’s recognition of the need for this reform and the need to make a substantial investment to drive this reform.

“We urge the Committee for the Future of Healthcare to take heed of the recommendation to put in place a transitional fund to enable a Community-led health service.”

Recruitment and retention

The NAGP has warned that a recruitment and retention campaign is required to convince GP trainees to remain in Ireland rather than emigrating for more attractive work and pay conditions.

The association said it is eager to begin negotiations with the government and the Department of Health with a view to agreeing a new GP contract with better pay and conditions as soon as possible.

"If we are going to be in a position to treat patients in an appropriate time frame, there has to be an increase in funding to GP-led Primary Care in order to keep patients, who could be treated in the community, out of the Emergency Department,” said Dr Kerin.

“For those very ill patients who do need immediate hospital care there also needs to be direct access for GPs to the appropriate acute hospital department - whether that's medical, surgical, Gynae or frail elderly.”