Failing Out of Hours GP services playing ‘roulette’ with patient welfare

THE current GP Out of Hours services provided for the Western Health and Social Care Trust has been heavily criticised after figures showed many instances of no cover.
During a meeting of the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Policy and Resources Committee, one member remarked on the unacceptable playing of “roulette” in terms of patient welfare.
Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh noted the number of times it had taken to write to the Health and Social Care Board to obtain the figures and told members: “This demonstrates the importance of actually keeping application. I don’t know if anyone else has managed to get these statistics which are genuinely hugely concerning. They confirm the Out of Hours GP system of access is absolutely failing in Enniskillen and Omagh.”
The figures showed during January, in weekdays in Omagh only 67 per cent of the hours were covered. The December equivalent in Enniskillen was 61 per cent, falling again the following month to 57 per cent.
Councillor O’Cofaigh, pictured below, pointed out: “Just over half of GP Out of Hours cover was provided. The statistics also show a lot of days when there is no GP cover whatsoever. In Enniskillen there were at least four days in the last four months, and in Omagh it was two days. There were also nights of no GP cover at all in both and Derry – that’s the whole Western zone.”
He proposed council write to Minister for Health Robin Swann MLA setting out the concerns as “This is completely failing our people. We need a different model in which there is guaranteed cover. It’s not enough to play roulette with patients unable to access GP services.”
Committee Chairman Councillor Stephen McCann said members are all aware of the issues which are causing the lack of GP coverage, but was: “Unclear what any additional correspondence will do. We know the struggles and I don’t know what good further writing will achieve.”
Independent Councillor Emmet McAleer seconded the proposal and noted there were three consecutive Wednesdays without cover.
Referring to “a great problem”, Sinn Fein’s Councillor Barry McElduff felt the structures of the Health Service are letting people down.
“The Western Trust have declined to meet us formally in 2021 although I think that’s being remedied for a meeting in May. I am being lobbied by people who have had unsatisfactory experiences in the primary care
sector. It is managed in a different way to such an extent we can’t
get answers from the Department or Trust, even the Health and Social Care Board.”
Stressing his utmost respect for the medical profession, Councillor
McElduff nonetheless maintained: “When questions arise, they cannot be answered.”
Ulster Unionist Councillor Victor Warrington backed the Chairman’s comments on the viability of writing letters.

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