GP provision in Leitrim on verge of collapse

Claire McGovern

Reporter:

Claire McGovern

GP

50% of GP’s in Leitrim will reach retirement age within the next seven years.

Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Marc Mac Sharry says we are in danger of losing GP services in the North West, but particularly in Co. Leitrim unless the Government starts implementing measures to retain and recruit doctors in rural areas.

Deputy Mac Sharry made the comments after it was revealed that 50% of GP’s in Leitrim will reach retirement age within the next seven years.

“GP services have been declining steadily over the past number of years as a result of a chronic shortage of doctors throughout the country. It is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit GPs to areas outside the main urban hubs, and as a result, towns and villages across Ireland are being left without an adequate service”, explained Deputy Mac Sharry.

“The situation is particularly bleak in Leitrim, as new information shows that half of GPs in the county will reach retirement age within the next seven years. The Irish Medical Organisation has warned that it will be impossible to replace many of these doctors once they retire as there simply aren’t enough people training to become GPs. This year, for the first year, the GP training scheme was under-subscribed. It is inevitable that many rural areas will be left without a primary health care service if this trend continues.

“The local GP is the first port of call for a person who is sick and in need of medical care. If there aren’t enough GPs in our towns and villages, people will be forced to go to the Emergency Department, and the overcrowding crisis there will be further exacerbated. It’s a vicious circle and the patients are the ones who are losing out.

“GPs are under immense pressure, working longer hours, seeing more patients and taking on more on-call work. Unfortunately, they’re not getting fair treatment from the Government - they have had their funding cut by 38% in recent years and the end result is that young people simply aren’t entering the profession.

“This is a serious crisis facing our health service. Having access to a local primary health service is not a luxury and rural Ireland shouldn’t’ have to say goodbye to yet another fundamental community service. The Government needs to get to grips with this crisis now. Funding for GP services needs to be increased to make it more attractable for young doctors to setup practice in rural communities,” concluded Deputy Mac Sharry.