Coalition of doctors calling for universal healthcare in Ireland

Coalition of doctors calling for universal healthcare in Ireland

A NUMBER of doctors have joined together in Ireland to create a coalition calling for universal healthcare.

In an open letter, the doctors explain how they believe healthcare is a fundamental right and should be provided to all who need it based on clinical need and not the ability to pay.

Notable doctors who have signed the letter and make up the coalition include Professor Anthony Staines, Head of Health systems at Dublin City University, Dr Clíona Ni Cheallaigh, Associate Professor Consultant of Clinical Medicine in Trinity and Dr Gabriel Scally, author of the Scally Report which looked into the failures of cervical screening and CervicalCheck in Ireland.

"Access to healthcare is deteriorating, with nearly one in five citizens now waiting for specialist appointments," the letter reads.

"General practice is in crisis, as GPs retire unreplaced and many towns face the prospect of no doctor at all. Younger doctors continue to work unsafe and illegal hours.

"Despite spending more on health than many nations, we have fewer hospital beds, ICU beds and specialist consultants than most European systems. We remain the only country in western Europe without universal access to primary care."

It said these issues are not new and are impossible to remove from a "political context in which healthcare is not regarded as a basic right."

It noted how universal healthcare is supported by nearly all political parties and the vast majority of the public, and the doctors expressed dismay at the rate at which the Sláintecare programme is progressing.

"Sláintecare reforms have been distorted and delayed by political indecision," they said.

"For many doctors, Sláintecare itself has been tainted by a needlessly negative ongoing contract dispute. This is regrettable, as many support Sláintecare’s guiding principles of universalism and resource allocation based on need."

While reform would not be easy, the doctors believe that with "resources, leadership and genuine engagement with those on the front-line, it can be done."

"As outlined by the De Buitléir Report, the extrication of the public and private sectors will take money and time.

"Sustained investment in public hospital capacity is needed to tackle waiting lists. Our surgeons need access to theatre space in the public system. Stabilising and then expanding access to primary care will require not only resources, but rebuilding of trust. Doctors and our representative bodies must be involved in the change process at all levels."

"As a growing coalition of doctors, we look to a future where a universal, publicly-funded system embodies these values and guarantees healthcare as a right of all people," the letter finished.