‘A thriving town center GP practice in Templemore is closing as the HSE have failed to appoint a replacement for the retiring Doctor’ stated Deputy Michael Lowry in the Dail on Wednesday.
Addressing the Minister of State in the Department of Health, Mary Butler TD., he said that the Proposed closure of this practice, which consists of 800 patients, is causing distress, fear, and inconvenience.
The Minister reiterated the statement from the HSE, saying that they have been unable to recruit a GP to take over the single Doctor practice, despite running two advertising campaigns in March and June of this year across Ireland and the UK.
The Minister agreed to discuss a proposal made to extend the closure of the practice by six months to allow further time to secure a replacement Doctor with the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly.
‘Patient/Doctor relationships are built on trust and confidence. This Family Doctor ethos is cherished and respected by every family in Templemore and district.
‘The closure of this practice would breach a long-established relationship between the G.P. Practice, patients, and their families. The people of Templemore are angry and feel let down by the HSE’ stated Deputy Lowry.
He added that this scenario is being echoed across rural Ireland. ‘As far back as 2015, the Irish College of General Practitioners stated that if measures were not introduced to support rural practices further inequality of access to healthcare amongst rural populations would result. This warning was ignored. Templemore is just one example of the fallout.
‘We have a situation across the country were aging GP’s are reaching retirement and their patients are being left without routine medical care. The Shannon Doc system is not adequately resourced to provide the scale of medical cover required. Our older people live in fear of needing medical attention when GP surgeries have closed for the day. The Centralised Ambulance system is dysfunctional. Across Tipperary, it is not unusual to experience an ambulance wait time of up to an hour and a half. The hospital system is also failing them with unacceptable delays in accident and emergency units’ stated Deputy Lowry.
He outlined that in Templemore, medical card patients are being transferred to the only other GP practice in the town. ‘This practice has successfully engaged an additional GP to help with increasing patient numbers. Private patients have been left to source their own future medical care.
‘In Templemore, the retiring GP in question made his intentions known to the HSE in late February of this year. The HSE recruitment campaign has failed dismally to attract doctors’ interest.
‘The entire system must be examined as a matter of urgency. Attracting GP’s to sole practices in rural areas has been a problem for a very long time. The problem is growing and will continue to grow. We must lift the excessive restrictions on qualified Doctors, from countries outside of Europe who are willing to practice in Ireland. Incentives must be put in place to make rural practices more attractive to GP’s to avert a pending crisis’ Deputy Lowry concluded.