Health budgets will have to keep pace with demand as population grows and ages, doctors warn

IMO welcomes the substantial increase in hospital bed numbers announced by Government but argues more will be needed

Health budgets are going to have to continue to increase to keep pace with demand as the population increases and ages, doctors have maintained.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) on Thursday welcomed plans announced by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to put in place 3,438 additional beds by 2031. However, it argued even more were needed.

The chairman of the IMO’s consultant committee Prof Matthew Sadlier said the announcement represented “a significant step forward” but that the commitment to put in place the new beds had to be honoured in full and on schedule.

He said the Government needed to move with urgency to secure planning permissions, put in train the required building works and get started on the process to recruit the medical and other staff necessary to ensure that the new beds could be used effectively.

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“Finally, this must be part of a larger programme to address the shortfall of 5,000 beds that exists in the public hospital system,” he said.

Prof Sadlier said while the IMO acknowledged the scale of the investment required, the reality was that Ireland had an ageing and increasing population while medical care and outcomes were improving.

“If we want to be able to provide highest standard care to patients in all parts of the country, budgets are going to have to continue to increase simply to keep pace with demand.”

Prof Sadlier also said that the new beds announced by the Minister were focused on acute, maternity and children’s services but omitted psychiatric services. He said in this area there was also “a similar bed crisis and no suggestion of additional beds being planned for”.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent