RCSI President Professor P. Ronan O’Connell comments on Budget 2021

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RCSI welcomes the announcement by the Minister of Health of additional funding for the health services following allocations made in Budget 2020/21. The measures announced will assist the health services cope with the combined threats of the COVID-19 crisis and expected winter pressures.

COVID-19 has exposed pre-existing critical shortages in hospital bed capacity, particularly in intensive care and high dependency units. Planned increased bed capacity, while welcome, is not sufficient without staff recruitment, training and retention.

For too long Ireland has exported many of its best and brightest graduates in medicine, nursing and professions allied to medicine. Now is the time to ensure that all suitably qualified graduates are retained within the Irish healthcare system. The decision earlier this year to offer internship to all graduates of Irish medical schools proved invaluable in coping with the first COVID surge. RCSI urges the HSE to continue this arrangement.

Cancellations of scheduled care deprive patients of timely treatment, but also seriously impact on the ability to train staff. It is crucial that training continues through the COVID-19/winter crisis. This is particularly problematic in the specialties of surgery, anaesthesiology, gastroenterology and other interventional specialties. While welcome, supplementary funding to the National Treatment Purchase Fund to provide access to scheduled care in the private sector must also facilitate access for specialty training. RCSI looks forward to working with the Minister, his department, the HSE and hospital groups to ensure best use of the additional funding and a safer, more equitable future in Irish healthcare.