Tuesday 23 May 2017

'We can't provide best care for our refugees' - Roscommon GP warns

Ballaghaderreen GP warns he could not cope with 200 patients from Syria

Around 200 refugees are expected to be accommodated in Ballaghaderreen
Around 200 refugees are expected to be accommodated in Ballaghaderreen

Terence Cosgrave

Syrian refugees bound for the Co Roscommon town of Ballaghaderreen may be unable to access medical treatment because local services are already under massive strain.

Local GP Dr Martin Garvey, one of just two GPs in the town, told The Sunday Independent that while he welcomed the refugees to the town, he could not begin to address their needs, and he had not received any instruction from the Health Service Executive (HSE) on how to manage their healthcare.

"At the moment I'm working a 50-60 hour week, depending on when I'm on-call. I'm struggling to provide care to my patients. With an aging population, the Under Six contract and the flu epidemic, I'm especially busy right now."

Read more: 'Refugees will be welcome in Roscommon - but why are we only just being told about this?'

Dr Garvey said that the town as a whole would welcome the refugees and that Ballaghaderreen had a history of migration to the town, due to the meat factory which had brought in people of Pakistani origin and more recently, the settlement of eastern Europeans. But he said that local medical services will be swamped.

"We are expecting 80 women and children initially and up to 120 more people after that. Coming from a war zone, these people will need extra medical care, including psychological care, and yet no-one from the HSE has been in contact with me to explain how local services can possibly cope with this extra workload," he said.

Additional problems for local medics is that most of these refugees will have little or no English and may also have complex medical needs due to the fact that they will not have been able to access full medical services for months or even years.

Read more: Comment: Better communication needed to smooth way for Syrians

Dr Garvey said that he was under an obligation to provide services to the whole community, but that his practice was already at breaking point.

"I have a part-time doctor helping me, but it is impossible to attract other doctors to rural general practices, given the current terms and conditions of the contract. It's simply not viable. And the result is that some patients will miss out on treatment.

"I'm in an intolerable position. I'm morally obliged to treat any patient who shows up at my door. I have no idea how I'm going to deal with this. My practice nurse and admin staff are already working flat out. I can't ask any more of them. I'm not sure how any one doctor can deal with this tsunami of work."

Dr Garvey said he had received no communication of any kind regarding the extra 200 patients being added to the town from either the HSE or the Department of Justice, and he worried about his ability to provide a proper GP service.

Sunday Independent

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