Independent Senator and Galway West/South Mayo General Election candidate Fidelma Healy Eames has warned of the dangers of serious under-funding of GPs in remote rural areas.
Speaking this week she said that the Clifden community is lacking adequate GP cover and just recently, five hundred people from Clifden attended a public meeting on the issue.
“Health Minister Leo Varadkar has admitted there is a shortage of GPs nationally, but has not acknowledged that cuts to their funding has exacerbated the problem. I met with people in that general area two days after the public meeting and it was uppermost on their minds. They feel very exposed and isolated. They’re already remote at 50-60 miles from Galway, and are seriously at risk if they lose their GPs,” she added.
Sen Healy Eames said that a reduction of the “rural practitioner allowance” and the abolition of “distance coding”, which allowed rural doctors to claim more for house calls to patients living far from their premises, have disproportionately affected rural GPs’ ability to provide services and attract new GPs to rural areas.
“GPs are the front line in primary care and should be invested in. Taking their allowances away at this distance from Galway University Hospital is putting rural people at a major disadvantage. Worse still, they have a local district hospital in Clifden which is not being used to its full capacity.
“For example, they have locally fundraised for an X-ray machine and there is no one - no trained staff - to operate it. This is a disgrace and proof that the Government has no commitment to health care at the closest point of access.”
“I was told about one local GP in north Connamara working 106 hours per week. This is not sustainable for the health of anyone, not least the doctor. The bottom line, under the current conditions, is both patients and doctors are being denied their human right to health,” she concluded.