A delegation of GPs from rural communities throughout the country, including Noreen Lineen-Curtis based in Mayo, met with the Fine Gael Health Committee recently to give its views on the crisis facing general practice in rural Ireland. The delegation highlighted the pressing need for resources in rural general practice, the lack of which has plunged the service into a crisis not seen in Ireland since the mid-80s.
The representatives' aim was to remind the committee of the many communities nationwide that have lost their local general practitioner, with little chance of securing a replacement unless the resourcing issues in rural practice are urgently dealt with. The committee spokesperson, Liam Glynn, explained their position: “Community general practice receives less than 2.5 per cent of the overall health budget despite having over 90 per cent of the patient contacts in the health service. This is compared to 8.9 per cent in the UK where they are currently campaigning to see that increased to 11 per cent.
"General practice is the universal front-line service nationwide. Every day our highly qualified GPs provide high-quality, comprehensive, continuous care across the country - now Ireland is losing these doctors to emigration and retirement. The role of the GP in the community does not appear to be sufficiently valued by this Government, as successive cuts to primary care have set community services back decades.
"In its strategy documents, ‘Quality and fairness: a health system for you’ and in ‘Primary Care – A New Direction’, the Department of Health and Children clearly acknowledges ‘the central role of primary care in the future development of modern health services’. However, rural general practice, specifically, has seen more cuts than any other area of the health service. Rural GPs have seen reductions in resourcing of nearly 50 per cent in the past six years alone, which goes completely against international best practice. Many GP clinics are no longer viable and therefore on the brink of closing down for ever. Unless changes to resourcing are urgently implemented, this will mean the end of the rural GP, whom communities have cherished and relied on for decades.”