GPs send stark letter to Simon Harris warning January abortion deadline will put women at risk
Doctors have sent a stark letter to Health Minister Simon Harris warning that women having abortions could be put at risk unless a safe service in in place by his January deadline.
The strongly-worded letter from Dr John O'Brien, President of the Irish College of General Practitioners comes amid growing concern that the implementation of the abortion law by January is being rushed leaving GPs and maternity hospitals unprepared.
The letter, seen by Independent.ie, warns: “It is critical that all of these requirements are available and fully operational for safe provision of this service to patients at the beginning of January 2019. Failure to do so will result in providers in the community coping with an unsafe service with potential for adverse events and system failure.
"I wish to advise that the President, Dr John O’Brien has written to the Minister today expressing strong concerns about the planned implementation of termination of pregnancy services in the community starting on the 1 January 2019."
Dr O'Brien said that "from the outset, the college has consistently and regularly stated that our primary concern is that the service for women must be safe and patient centred”.
He further added that "all GPs must be provided with clarification and further details for example on the 24 hour helpline; that there will be free, readily accessible and immediate ultrasound as deemed clinically needed by the doctor and where those sites will be located; that there will be free, readily accessible and immediate access to secondary care where required, etc. It is essential that GPs have full information as to which services are in place, operational and accessible in their areas.
"If these are not confirmed and in place, then “a high quality, patient centred service is jeopardised and patient care will be compromised”.
This comes as leading obstetricians have also warned maternity services are ill-prepared for the start up in January.
The legislation will return to the Seanad this week for final debate with a view to having it passed before the Christmas recess.
Mr Harris is adamant the January deadline will be met and is to hold talks with medical groups next week.