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Healthcare Market Update Q1, 2020
There has been a trend during the past couple of years for the Irish Health sector to exceed the annual budget appointed to it, particularly during the second half of the year. 2019 has been a positive year for the Healthcare sector despite the fact that the budget excesses have been considerably lower compared to 2018.
In 2019, the Irish Government spent approximately €16.3 bn in the Health sector. €642 m was allocated for the construction of Healthcare facilities. An additional €75 m was allocated by the government in February 2019 for the New Children’s Hospital, which was the largest project of the year. The allocation for 2019 presented an overall increase of €204 m, or 46 per cent on the 2018 allocation, while the most recent estimation on the expenditures for 2019 was €230 m.
During the first half of 2019, Health spend exceeded budget by almost 15 per cent (6.8% vs 5.8% overspend), although this was a significant improvement on 2018 when additional year-on-year allocation spend is taken into account. For the final 3 months of 2019, €0.9 bn was allocated to day-to-day Health expenditures. Several projects were taken on during 2019 concerning Primary Care, Services for Older Persons, Disability Services, Mental Health Services, Acute Hospitals Services, and National Ambulance Services. (2) such as the new Children’s National Hospital and the St. James Hospital project.
According to Statista, during 2018, 7 per cent of Ireland’s total GDP was spent on Healthcare. During the same year, the number of Nurses employed by the HSE was around 37,220, while there were 21,000 Doctors registered with the Medical Council of Ireland, numbers which were expected to increase for 2019.
Moreover, Ireland has the lowest number of Consultants in the EU, while at the same time there has been a dramatic increase in Irish Doctors working in Australia, Canada and the UK, which leaves more than 230,000 people in Ireland without GP care. In Australia alone, there has been a 40 per cent increase in Irish Doctors since 2013. At the same time, Irish hospitals had 2,299 fewer highly trained Nurses in 2018 compared to 2008, resulting in the hospitals being run by a nursing staff that is 17 per cent smaller than a decade ago, despite the HSE hiring more than 1,000 Agency Nurses per day to plug shortages. According to a 2018 survey by the INMO, 71 per cent of Student Nurses reported that they are planning to leave Ireland once they graduate, which would result in a further brain drain.
The HSE’s National Service Plan for 2019, approved by the government, included an allocation of €16.05 bn for Health and Social Care services, an overall increase of €848 m (5.6%) compared to 2018.
The shift towards private Healthcare continues as the demand has increased over the past year and the public facilities have had difficulties meeting it. According to the Health Insurance Authority of Ireland, an increase has been noted in the number of people insured, with in-patient health insurance plans rising from 2.19 m in June 2018 to 2.24 m in June 2019.
The group of professionals the Healthcare Industry is most likely to face shortages of until 2025, according to the National Skills Strategy published in 2014 by the Department of Education, are Medical Practitioners, mainly Doctors and Medical Specialists, as well as Nurses in a variety of fields: General, Emergency, Orthopaedic, Psychiatry, Oncology, Intensive Care, and more. The demand for Radiographers and specialists in niche medical fields such as Audiologists, Cardiac Technicians and Dieticians is also expected to increase in the years to come.
While the Healthcare industry is expected to grow further in the coming years, as the government’s and the HSE’s ongoing initiatives to improve the sector indicate, Brexit might potentially impact the Irish Healthcare industry in unforeseen ways, considering that the Irish government will have to adjust its total expenditure for every sector based on how the UK’s exit from the EU will affect the Irish economy. Furthermore, the continually growing population of Ireland due to the rise in immigration, along with increasing life expectancy, could be expected to create challenges in the Healthcare sector in the future and put pressure on both the government and the HSE.
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