Dr Michael Harty has criticised the HSE for failing to address obvious problems that have been apparent for years before ShannonDoc services were cut across the County last month.
Changes were announced to the Mid-West service last month which saw a reduction in the operating hours. The Clare Herald revealed this morning that a video doctor service was to be introduced in the ShannonDoc’s Kilrush service.
Independent Clare TD, Michael Harty a former GP in Kilmihil believes the HSE have to take a large burden of the blame for the reductions to the facility. “These changes are another manifestation of the mismanagement of the Irish Health Service and highlights the failure of the HSE to anticipate and plan for the medical manpower crisis which faces general practice and the wider health service”.
Dr. Harty said that this shortage of doctors has been predicted and has become increasingly obvious over the past number of years, yet nothing has been done to address the crisis. The increasing shortage of available doctors is at the core of the problem. He said that this has been highlighted repeatedly to the HSE who are the principal funders of the ShannonDoc out-of-hours service.
“This decline was one of the main issues highlighted in the No Doctor No Village campaign. This doctor shortage is not confined to Co. Clare. It is an issue throughout rural Ireland and internationally including Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and continental Europe. The minimum rota which would provide a safe GP out of hours service is a 1:10 rota. This results in participating GPs working 264 hours in ShannonDoc centres out of hours every year which is equivalent to 7 weeks over and above their normal working week. To work more than this is unsafe and unsustainable”.
He added “The Kilrush ShannonDoc centre had 10 participating GPs who practices in the area of south west Clare. Following the death of one and the retirement of two other GPs this number has reduced to 7 participating doctors. ShannonDoc has to date filled the gaps in the rota with locum GPs. The Ennistymon ShannonDoc centre has 8 participating GPs who practice in the area of north Clare. ShannonDoc has also filled the gaps in this rota with locum GPs to bring to 1:10. All out-of hours services are experiencing difficulty is finding locums to supplement the local GPs rosters”.
Harty feels reasons for this include the working commitments of operating a rural practice, premature retirements of GP’s due to the pressure of running a practice, he says extra barriers are being putting in place preventing foreign locum GPs from working in Ireland.
“Unless these issues are addressed urgently the existence of general practice as we know it with be threatened with inevitable further consequences for out of hours services. An interim solution is to revise the unduly restrictive immigration rules and I am currently in discussions with the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on this matter. I also propose to raise the ShannonDoc situation at this week’s session of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health which will be attended by Minister for Health Simon Harris and HSE CEO Tony O’Brien,” said Dr. Harty.