Loss of GP 'doesn't bear thinking about' as 1,000 rural town residents sign petition to save service
The owner of a pharmacy in rural Co Kerry said the possibility that the village will be left without a GP "doesn't bear thinking about".
At least 1000 people in Sneem have signed a petition to save their GP service as their current doctor Dr Patrick Malone is due to retire in October and the HSE have yet to find a replacement.
Owner of Sneem Pharmacy, Don Keogh told Independent.ie that, without a GP, his pharmacy is in danger of becoming redundant.
"Without a GP, the pillars of a pharmacy come falling down. GP prescriptions are the backbone of our business. No pharmacy can operate without a GP. It doesn't bear thinking about it if there's no GP," said the pharmacist who has been operating in Sneem since 1994.
Mr Keogh said that the people of Sneem and surrounding areas would be forced to travel 24km to Kenmare if they want to visit a GP and as a result his business would suffer.
"If people are coming from a medical centre in Kenmare they'll go to a pharmacy there. Loyalty to us would dwindle and the value of this pharmacy would depreciate. No young graduate pharmacist would even consider coming here if there was no GP. The two feed off each other," he said.
The pharmacist added that he hopes the petition will "prod" the HSE in the right direction.
"Petitions are a good old-fashioned way of getting publicity out there. Hopefully it'll prod the HSE to do something. In fairness to them they did advertise the position but there seems to be no pool of young doctors out there. 20 years ago there was an over supply, now it's the opposite," he said.
Kerry TD, Danny Healy-Rae said that the possible closure of GP services in Sneem will not just affect Sneem but also its surrounding areas.
"This is very serious for the great people of Sneem. It's 17 miles away from Kenmare. It's over 40 miles away from the hospital in Tralee. It's very isolated. Parts of Sneem, like Caherdaniel and Castlecomer are even further away. It's practically in the middle of nowhere," he explained.
He added that Sneem isn't the only village in Kerry in danger of losing their GP.
"There's an ongoing problem in Rathmore at the moment. The GP from Millstreet is meant to provide a service three days a week but that's just not happening.
If you go back to the 30s, 40s and 50s we always had a doctor, we always had Garda stations and we always had post offices. It's just wrong and I'll be highlighting Sneem's cause in the Dáil in September."
Mr Healy-Rae cited the number of young doctors emigrating as one of the reasons why GP services in rural areas are under threat.
"Young doctors are going abroad. The role of a rural doctor is challenging and they're not being paid enough. The HSE are paying management huge amounts of money. It's just ridiculous," he said.
The TD also said that if a new doctor was to come to Sneem that the village would welcome them with open arms.
"Sneem is a wonderful place to be and the people there are the most welcoming in the world. If a young doctor came to Sneem or any aged doctor, they'd be made feel part of the community."