Nurses have given a cautious welcome to commitments made about health in the National Planning Framework, which was announced by the Government last Friday.
Project Ireland 2040 is a €116 billion development plan for the country, which includes commitments to build more homes, schools and hospitals over the next two decades.
During this time, the population of the country is expected to grow by one million.
The plan provides for a €10.9 billion capital investment in health services. The Government has committed to providing three new elective-only hospital facilities in Dublin, Cork and Galway, an additional 2,600 acute hospital beds and 4,500 new community/step-down beds.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) welcomed the plan, but insisted that ‘none of this can be realised without significant measures to recruit and retain nurses and midwives'.
The commitment to provide 2,600 acute beds and 4,500 community beds ‘is entirely dependent on significant reform of our health services', commented INMO general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha.
She added that unless the pay and conditions of nurses and midwives are properly addressed, ‘the ability to attract and keep nurses and midwives in the Irish public health service will continue to be a major impediment to the delivery of appropriate safe care'.
Meanwhile, the Private Hospitals Association (PHA) has said that the 10-year timeline for the delivery of new acute hospital facilities will offer ‘little solace to the hundreds of thousands of people currently languishing on public waiting lists'.
It insisted that the Government has ‘failed to consider the real potential of the private sector to deliver new hospital beds quicker'.
It said that while the commitment to deliver new hospitals and new beds is very welcome, ‘it is long overdue and by the time it eventually comes on stream, it is likely to fall short of what's needed to bridge the bed capacity gap in 2026'.
"The private hospital sector can play a unique role in expediting the delivery of the new hospital buildings, surgical facilities and hospital beds that are so badly required within our acute network... Private hospitals currently provide care for over 400,000 patients annually, but have the potential to deliver much more.
"The Government has the opportunity of an early win on bed capacity by simply requesting our members to add new beds in the private system - this can happen in a fraction of the time it would take for a new public bed to come on stream," commented PHA chief executive, Simon Nugent.