Dr Tadhg Crowley
A leading Kilkenny doctor says a cross-party report on the future of Irish healthcare ignores the capacity of GPs.
The Sláintecare Oireachtas committee report is a 10-year plan for the radical reform of Ireland’s health system.
The report was published earlier this year and concluded that there is a need to shift care out of hospitals and into the primary care and community setting.
Dr Tadhg Crowley says GP retirements coming down the track are likely to lead to even more packed waiting rooms and the end of a same day service.
Reacting to the report, he said: “Sláintecare would see investment in hospital infrastructure and in staffing. Private care of patients in a public hospital would be a thing of the past. Basically, St Luke’s would have more facilities and staff to cater for the needs of its population. All good, but how does this translate to moving services out to the community, it doesn’t and this is the dichotomy in healthcare.”
He added: “Trolley counts attract monies while preventative healthcare doesn’t give politicians the same high as opening up a new hospital wing.
“The report aims for the expansion of primary care with more diagnostics such as X-rays and ultrasounds happening in primary care centres as opposed to hospitals. GP care would be free at the point of delivery allowing free access for patients to their GP.”
Dr Crowley says this “ignores a few big problems in Kilkenny”. He said: “Firstly, capacity because 40% of GPs will be due retire in the next 5 years. This will result in even more packed waiting rooms and the end of a same day service in general practice.
“Employing more people in primary care may not necessarily mean shorter waiting lists because GP and the allied health services have different employment.
“GP led primary care would be much more efficient but Government will be slow to resource it.
“The integrated care in this report proposes more investigations and treatment occurring in the community while allowing public access quickly to the hospital.
“This is a great idea and has been in several reports in the past. The how is short on detail in this and the stages by which this would happen are missing in the report. Would we have consultants doing clinics in the community?
“Why do stress tests and cardiac investigations in St Luke’s when they could be done in your own GP surgery? There would be transitional funding needed to make this happen. The report overall does not address the funding in a meaningful and realistic way.”
In its final report, the committee stated: “Primary care and general practice is facing a manpower crisis.”
It also stated that the proposed roll-out of Universal GP care would cost €455m over five years aligned with universal primary care to cost €265.6m over first five years of the plan.