FERMANAGH’S health system is in crisis this week after it emerged the operators of Maple Healthcare in Lisnaskea have handed back the contract for the practice.
The news comes just days after the Western Trust announced the suspension of emergency surgery at the South West Acute Hospital.
It has been confirmed this weekend the operators of the practice, which has around 14,000 patients on its books from right across the south east of the county, were handing back the contract due to excessive stresses and pressure.
Services will continue as normal for the next six months, patients have been assured, and the search has begun to new doctors to take on the running of the practice.
Maple has been under extreme strain in recent years after absorbing thousands of patients following the closure of Roslea surgery in 2017, as well as from other neighbouring practices following the retirements of other local GPs, leaving it with an extremely wide catchment area to look after. Patients have reported persistent difficulties getting appointments at the practice.
The retirement of GPs at the Lisnaskea practice, over the past 18 months, and the imminent retirement of another, is understood to have impacted the decision to hand back the contract.
It is understood the Western Trust – which does not have responsibility for GP services – may be called on to take on the practice if new operators are not found. In an unprecedented move, Trust took on the contract for the Trillick and Dromore practice earlier this year, after no contractor was found to take on its operation following the resignation of its resident GP.
Following its intervention in the Trillick and Dromore crisis, it had been stated that the Trust had not taken on the contract for Roslea surgery when it closed as Maple Healthcare had been willing to take on its patients.
In the Trust’s November board meeting chief executive Neil Guckian said the Trust currently had the GP rota covered at the Trillick practice, which was operating smoothly, and would be continuing to look after its operations until at least March next year.
Plans for a new £18.5 million healthcentre on the site of the old High School in Lisnaskea are currently in the design stage.
For more on this story, and full coverage of the community campaign to save emergency surgery at SWAH, see Wednesday’s Fermanagh Herald.
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