Cork North West Sinn Féin candidate Liadh Ní Riada urges Macroom Credit Union to reverse notice to quit for Coachford Family Practice
A provision in the Credit Union Act has been cited by Macroom Credit Union in its notice to a mid Cork GP practice to vacate its premises in Coachford within six months, it emerged this week.
Coachford Family Practice has been operating in the premises owned by Macroom Credit Union in the village for at least 15 years and has just been told that it must vacate the premises within six months as Macroom Credit Union has discovered it is not allowed, under legislation, to operate the premises for any purpose other than the operation of credit union business.
At present, Macroom Credit Union operates a sub office between 5.30pm and 7pm in the Coachford premises on Thursday evenings each week, except during the summer months when customers are asked to attend the Credit Union main office in Macroom.
According to Cork North West Sinn Féin candidate Liadh Ní Riada, the decision by Macroom Credit Union has given rise to fear in the Coachford community that it could lose its GP clinic altogether as there are no other suitable premises available in the locality.
“I am calling on the Credit Union, who own the premises the GP Surgery in Coachford works out of, to reconsider their six-month notice period for the GP Surgery to find a new premises and reverse their decision,” said Ms Ní Riada. “I have been contacted by a number of Coachford residents that are very concerned.
“Older people in particular rely heavily on a local medical service and this cannot be taken away...The people of Coachford need reassurance that they will not be left without a GP Surgery.
“There is fear that they will be forced to have to travel outside of Coachford for basic medical treatment and this cannot happen.’
In a recent edition of The Corkman, Dr Diarmuid Quinlan, the Medical Director of the Irish College of General Practictioners, warned of the difficulty being faced in many rural communities in Cork and throughout the country to find replacements for GPs who retire or move on to other opportunities. The Central Bank, which is the governing authority for credit unions, has told The Corkman that it was aware of the decision by Macroom Credit Union:
“While the Central Bank of Ireland is aware of Macroom Credit Union’s decision regarding its sub office in Coachford, decisions relating to business operations are commercial decision for the credit union.”
In the attachment containing the relevant legislation, the Credit Union Act 1997, Section 41 says a Credit Union may acquire and hold any land for the purpose of conducting its business on the land – but for no other purpose. However, in a further clause in the same section, it allows the Credit Union to dispose of any land it acquires by way of a lease.
Speaking to The Corkman, one of the two practice doctors, Dr Sadhbh Ní Lionáird, said the practice was focusing on finding new premises in Coachford.
“We are hoping to sort things out – our priority is to get another premises as soon as we can and keep it in the village,” said Dr Ní Lionáird.
She said the practice was aware of the campaign which had been set up locally to save the current premises for use as the practice location, but she emphasised that they were separate from it.
“We do appreciate it – the community here are fantastic, they’re so supportive,” she said.
“There’s no end to benefit of the practice being in the village.
“There’s a lot of elderly people that would walk up, so our priority is to keep it local and not have to move too far if at all possible.”
A member of Coachford Community Council, speaking on the Patricia Messinger Show on C103 FM, said they feared that if they lost the practice in the village, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to get it back. It was also pointed out that the population of Coachford was growing rapidly and a GP practice was essential.