Wednesday 21 February 2018

HSE can't fill rural GP jobs despite medical card lists

Retirements and emigration mean doctor shortage is going to get worse
Retirements and emigration mean doctor shortage is going to get worse
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Swathes of the country have been unable to attract a full-time GP for up to three years despite having a ready-made list of medical card patients.

The HSE has had to hire temporary doctors instead to care for the patients, many of whom are ill or disabled and could not travel to another surgery.

All of the areas, including Mosney in Co Meath, Coolgreaney in Wexford as well as parts of inner-city Waterford, have hundreds of medical card patients who would generate HSE fees for the doctor involved.

But GPs say it would not be enough to provide them with a sustainable income in the wake of cuts.

Rural communities are increasingly at risk of facing a future without a local doctor, the analysis by the Irish College of General Practitioners has warned. It identified 18 areas, both urban and rural, that were particularly badly hit for a lack of a GP.

Medical director Dr Margaret Martin said its database showed up to a fifth of the 2,773 active family doctors were over 60.

One in three GPs is over 55 and previous research indicates large numbers of trainees are planning to emigrate.

"There are regional disparities in areas at more risk of having fewer GPs in the future.

"For example, more than a third of GPs in Carlow are aged over 60. In counties Clare, Cork, Laois, and Wexford, at least 28pc of GPs are also aged over 60," she said.

While it was a problem in some city areas, she warned that the situation was most severe in rural areas.

"Unless corrective measures are introduced, the current trends in emigration and retirement will result in fewer GPs to treat patients in rural areas in the next 10 years," said Dr Martin.

"Rural GPs have been hardest hit by austerity," she added.

Other areas without a full-time GP include Feakle, Co Clare, which is poorly served by public transport.


Gortnahoe in south Tipperary saw a GP who recently retired have to return on a temporary arrangement.

This was after the post was advertised on two occasions with no applications.

Coolgreany in Co Wexford has a post vacant for more than three years - after being advertised four times to look after 405 medical card patients.

Moycullen in Co Galway has a temporary doctor in place for over six years, while islands Inis Oirr and Inis Meain had a temporary doctor for more than seven years.

And Mosney in Co Meath has a sizeable 610 people with a medical card but no interested full-time doctor for nearly a year.

The doctors' body said the removal of the rural practice allowance in particular has meant that doctors who operate alone and must cater for patients far and wide have been particularly hit.

Irish Independent

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