Friday 20 October 2017

Several counties do not have enough GPs, warns study

The ratio of GPs per 100,000 people varies significantly, with Longford, Kilkenny and Monaghan the worst off
The ratio of GPs per 100,000 people varies significantly, with Longford, Kilkenny and Monaghan the worst off
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Some counties have nearly half as many GPs per head of population than others, a new report has revealed.

The ratio of GPs per 100,000 people varies significantly, with Longford, Kilkenny and Monaghan the worst off.

The highest ratio is in Galway, Cork, Waterford and Westmeath, the workforce report by the Medical Council showed.

The variations, which have knock-on effects for patient choice, access and waiting times, will have to be tackled as free care is phased in over the coming years.

The report, launched by Health Minister Leo Varadkar, highlights how currently one in three GPs is over 55 years of age.

A second report from the Medical Council found that a record 19,000 doctors are now in Ireland. More than half of trainees said they intended to practise medicine in Ireland but one fifth were definitely or strongly thinking of working abroad. And another one in four said they were undecided.

There has been a fall in the proportion of trainees saying they will leave Ireland but too many are still uprooting when they are needed at home.

There are currently around 171 vacancies in hospitals because of a shortage of specialists applying for permanent pensionable jobs here and this is impacting on services.

Mr Varadkar said although there are more doctors in Ireland, "we are struggling to fill consultant posts and fewer Irish-trained doctors are coming back than in the past. I want this to change. The Government is now acting by making posts financially attractive again."

The reports showed:

Older trainee doctors aged 35-39 and those in specialities like psychiatry are more likely to say they intend to leave Ireland.

Trainees who were frequently bullied were twice as likely to say they were leaving.

Trainees who intended to leave reported lower well-being, poorer quality of life and worse health.

Commenting on the findings, Medical Council chief executive Bill Prasifka said it was a surprise that older rather than younger doctors were more likely to leave and work is needed to retain as many as possible here.

Dublin West Fianna Fáil candidate and medical student Cllr Jack Chambers said: "It is not just about pay and hours, it is about the HSE respecting and protecting its workers.

"Every time a doctor leaves, it means hundreds of thousands of euro in education costs go down the drain for the taxpayer," he added.

Irish Independent

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