FERMANAGH could be left with only five GP practices serving the whole county by 2021, doctors have warned this week.
The stark message from the General Practitioners Committee means 13 of the 18 GP practices in Fermanagh could close, leaving patients having to travel up to 40 miles to see a doctor.
With no GPs available to fill vacancies caused by impending retirements, it has been predicted that three-quarters of Fermanagh’s practices will close within five years.
GPC chair Dr Tom Black, said the situation in Fermanagh is even worse than other counties in the North. He said the move to just five practices would be a gradual process.
“We are trying to consolidate 18 practices into five so there will be five practices across the whole county. Patients will be left travelling 30 to 40 miles to see their GP. T
here will be an effort to maintain some of the practices as branch surgeries but it is very difficult as there are no GPs.”
He warned: “We are already down from 18 to 16 and three or four more will close in the next few months. The practices want us to find them more GPs and more district nurses but they are in very short supply.”
UUP MLA Rosemary Barton MLA says any closures will have serious ramifications for patients and the wider public.
“Fermanagh is at breaking point and the Northern Ireland Executive need to step up to the mark and address the serious pressures our GPs are facing.
The inability to attract new doctors to Fermanagh is worrying and more needs to be done to tackle this problem.”
The SDLP’s Richie McPhillips added: “GP provision in Fermanagh is in crisis.
This could have been averted had previous Health ministers taken affirmative action to recruit more GP’s into the area, knowing many would be retiring.Patients here are going to see a major sea change in care and service.”
The Health and Social Care Board says it’s continuing to work with GP practices in Fermanagh and encouraging them to form larger partnerships so that practices are in a stronger position to attract more GPs to the area.
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