THE COUNCIL is to seek urgent engagement with the Minister for Health Robin Swann MLA over “the increasingly precarious position of GP Practices in Trillick and Dromore”.
Sinn Fein’s Councillor Stephen McCann told members: “The period of notice around the outgoing GP is up at the end of June and a replacement has not been found. This situation is of the utmost seriousness and urgent intervention by the Minister for Health is now required. These are very busy practices and with a deadline fast approaching and no certainty of what will happen, almost 6,000 people will find themselves displaced. This will inevitably compound on other GP services in the region, which are already under significant pressures. They simply do not have the capability for more patients, some of whom have described contacting other GP practices only to be told the lists are closed.”
He added an interim measure of provision of multidisciplinary teams had been discussed but without a Stormont Executive, this is no longer an option.
Councillor McCann proposed seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister: “Demanding urgent intervention and outlining our deep concerns. Now is the time to step up to the mark. No stone can be left unturned in efforts to safeguard and protect our GP services. The Minister has ultimate responsibility.”
Seconding, Independent Councillor Josephine Deehan agreed: “wholeheartedly” on the requirement of urgent engagement with the Minister.
“My concern is for the patients and this period of deep uncertainty is very troubling for them. This council needs to do everything possible to avert what can only be described as a crisis. With still no replacement GP found, we need to look to alternative solutions. I would favour a ‘Hub and Spoke’ model in which there would be a central base of GP’s serving neighbouring practices, enabling existing premises to be retained. I accept the situation about funding and no budget for the next financial year, however desperate situations require desperate action. We urgently need the Minister onboard.”
Councillor Sheamus Greene, Sinn Fein recognised elements of the situation when Roslea lost their GP surgery several years ago.
He said: “Everything was supposed to have been done to find a doctor, but the surgery closed. Maple Healthcare took up the slack in Lisnaskea with eight doctors at the time. Now with Roslea patients included, at the last count it is down to four doctors. When instead of the number of doctors going up with patient increase, it literally halved. That’s scary. Don’t get me wrong – Maple are doing everything in their power to recruit. So this isn’t just about Dromore and Trillick. Its about GP services right across the north, particularly west of the Bann. I’m fearful of what’s coming. This is mismanagement on a gigantic scale. It is actually unbelievable how our Health Service is managed. It’s an absolute scandal and should be called out as such.”
Alliance Councillor Stephen Donnelly recalled a number of discussions with constituents who expressed difficulties in accessing rural services, and in particular GP provision.
“This is very much to the fore is Dromore and Trillick and that is illustrated in the proposal. We have a situation of a very strained network and the absence of a long-term solution has the potential to really compound that and create an already very difficult situation.”
Councillor Bert Wilson, Ulster Unionist stressed: “It’s no fault of the doctors. They do their best. A man living in the Republic told me it costs £50 to see a GP, then around £30 for a prescription.”
Concluding, party colleague and newly elected Vice-Chair Allan Rainey described the situation: “unbelievable” and suggested a delegation of members is formed to meet the Minister to: “Make the point strongly on behalf of residents”
Councillor McCann agreed to incorporate this into his proposal which passed without dissent
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