Retiring doctors ‘forced to stay on’ as crisis deepens

Maguiresbridge surgery recently close with retirement of Dr Michael Smyth

Maguiresbridge surgery recently closed with retirement of Dr Michael Smyth

Local GPs are being forced to delay their retirement plans due to the ongoing shortage of young doctors in Fermanagh. 

Dr Roy Leary was due to retire yesterday (Tuesday) from his practice in Lisnaskea after 31 years  but will have to remain on because of the lack of locum doctors available to step in.
The closure of nearby Maguiresbride surgery in December added to the pressure on his Drumhaw-based practice. While patients from there were reallocated to doctors in Brookeborough and Tempo, the majority wished to attend Lisnaskea. Some of those had been joining Dr Leary’s practice at a rate of ten per week, which already has 2,400 patients on the books. 
Another local GP, Dr Kevin Devlin in Newtownbutler, who was expecting to retire around Easter, is also being forced to stay on. 
Dr Leary says he and colleagues in Roslea, Maguiresbridge and Newtownbutler who were approaching retirement age have been meeting over the past year to try to resolve the issue. This has resulted in an amalgamation with the Maple Group in Lisnaskea. 
Increased workloads and the difficulty in recruiting new GPs to rural practices – including many in Fermanagh – has seen medics facing an unprecedented level of pressure.
As he comes to the end of his medical career, Dr Leary says he feels “very disheartened” at the current state of general practice. 
“The Department of Health have been advised of this for around ten years and haven’t trained enough GPs. Across the UK, there hasn’t been enough investment in the NHS and regardless of the outcome of this election, it’s not going to be simple to sort out,” he said. 
Cross-Community Labour Alternative candidate Donal O’Cofaigh, who is focusing on the local GP crisis as part of his campaign, says this latest development shows that every rural doctor is at risk due to the deepening GP crisis. 
The SDLP’s Richie McPhillips has described the current situation as “deplorable” and says it’s down to a lack of forward planning. 
“This should have been foreseen ten years ago and preparations made for all of these doctors who would be retiring. If we are forced into a direct rule situation after the election it will only compound the situation and we would be fearful of being left out in the wilderness in terms of services.”

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