WE had heard most of it 15 months ago, so it was difficult to comprehend all the fanfare attached to the publication earlier this month of the Sláintecare implementation strategy, especially as it was so light on funding detail. The cross-party plan is the best hope for salvaging our ailing public health service, but nothing much has happened since it was first announced during which period waiting times on trolleys in emergency departments and waiting lists for referrals and treatment have reached record levels.
At the time of the announcement of Sláintecare in May 2017, the cost of implementing it was estimated at €2.6bn over its 10-year lifespan with a once-off €3bn capital spend added to that. One of the most important elements of the initial 106 actions set out in the implementation strategy is a new GP contract, but the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) says it has had no meaningful engagement since last November with the HSE, the Minister for Health or his Department and threatened that, ‘if contract negotiations are further stalled, the NAGP will have no alternative but to advise its members to work to contract’ and that GPs who feel their practices have reached the limit of safe capacity, in terms of patient numbers, should close their lists to new patients.
There are other actions such as increasing public hospitals’ bed capacity and tackling waiting lists – both no-brainers – and investment in eHealth. Disappointingly, however, there is no detail about how and when the actions will be funded – just more empty rhetoric.