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Policy issues concerning Health

The National Economic Plan - to be published on Budget day - must give equal weight to environmental, social and economic considerations. Otherwise, this Government will simply repeat the mistakes of the past and many will be left behind.  The National Economic Plan must be underpinned by a new social contract that treats our environment, society and economy equally

The latest outpatient waiting lists indicate that 601,362 patients were awaiting an appointment as of July 2020, an increase of 8 per cent on January 2020 and 66.7 per cent since 2014.  Almost 20 per cent were waiting 0-3 months while 22.8 per cent were waiting 18 months or more.  With COVID-19 case numbers again increasing, these waiting lists are likely to continue to rise.

People should be assured of the required treatment and healthcare in their times of illness and vulnerability. The standard of care available is dependent to a great degree on the resources made available, which in turn are dependent on the expectations of society. Covid-19 put an unprecedented strain on our healthcare system, however the systemic issues and overreliance on acute services which dominated the Irish healthcare infrastructure pre-Covid only served to exacerbate the problem.

COVID-19 is placing unprecedented pressure on our healthcare system.  The emergency measures implemented to date are welcome and necessary.  However in the medium and long term we must address the issues of bed capacity, lack of step down care facilities and the need to broaden access to community care so that our acute hospital system is better placed to deal with any future shock.

Research by Safeguarding Ireland, released this month (13th February 2020), indicates that 80% of adults have not considered how they want to be cared for.  When asked to state a preference, 85% of adults surveyed stated a preference for care at home, with necessary supports.  However, the current level of Homecare supports in Ireland is grossly inadequate. Social Justice Ireland believes that substantial investment is required to support people to age well at home and that the introduction of a statutory right to homecare must be a priority.

Our population is growing, and it is ageing which means we need a different approach to healthcare – one we can access in our communities, close to home.   Read Social Justice Ireland's election briefing on Healthcare for an outline of a number of key challenges and some policy proposals that should be in the next Programme for Government.

The latest outpatient waiting lists indicate that 563,410 patients were awaiting an appointment as of November 2019, an increase of 47.5% since 2014.  Almost 30% were waiting 0-3 months while 18.7% were waiting 18 months or more.  With health expenditure at an all-time high, how is the health service failing so many?

Social Justice Ireland has consistently highlighted the need to strenghten the resourcing of home care and home care pacakges, and has consistently advocated for a statuatory basis to the right to home care.  We welcome the recent publication of a Report on the Provision of  Home Care Services by the Oireachtas Committee on Health.

Ageing will be a dominant theme in the 21st century according to The United Nations World Economic and Social Survey. How we think about ageing can impact the policies we introduce and the supports we deem necessary.  Dr. Diarmuid O'Shea (Irish Gerontological Society) presented on the theme of ageing as an opportunity to add healthy years to life at our Social Policy Conference and emphasised that health and social care expenditures for older people need to be seen as an investment, not a cost.

People should be assured of the required treatment and care in their times of illness or vulnerability.  Yet in Ireland the healthcare system still struggles to provide an adequate service to everyone, and despite recent increases in resourcing we still have very high levels of unmet care needs.  

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