Rural General Practice-Don't Let It Die
Irish Medical Organisation

Full Press Release

GPs in rural Ireland are facing acute and particular problems and there is now a real risk that GP services will become increasingly rare in large parts of the country outside of urban areas according to the Chairman of the IMO GP Committee, Dr. Padraig McGarry.

 

Dr. McGarry was speaking at the launch of a new IMO campaign to focus attention on the plight of GPs in rural Ireland. Dr. McGarry, whose practice is in Longford, said that in addition to the various problems facing General Practice everywhere, there are specific problems facing rural GPs which must be addressed if the service is to be maintained.

 

Dr. McGarry said that it was becoming increasingly difficult to secure younger GPs to take up practice in rural areas and as older GPs retired or passed away, this was going to mean that large areas of the country will be left without GP services. He said; “communities in rural Ireland are being stripped of the key supports that make them viable and the loss of GP services in an area could have catastrophic consequences for people in that area. This isn’t just a campaign about GP services. This is a campaign about the plight of rural Ireland.”

 

The IMO has prepared a detailed policy paper on the matter and this weekend is launching a major campaign to highlight the issue.

 

 

This paper identifies key issues for rural GPs including:

 

  • Greater proportion of their patient populations are elderly – leading to more complex and intensive patient engagements and a greater demand for house calls than would be expected in urban settings.

 

  • Greater geographic dispersment of their patient population leading to greater demand for travel for both patients and doctors exacerbated by cuts to the financial supports to compensate for this issue.

 

  • Poorer infrastructural support in terms of Out of Hours cover and A&E and acute hospital services

 

  • Challenges in securing locum support to facilitate annual leave amongst GPs.

 

  • Lack of support services places greater reliance on GP services to provide procedures like suturing, catherisations, ECGs and palliative care which are poorly compensated in the current GP model.

 

 

The IMO is calling for interventions to stop the deterioration of services and encourage younger doctors in particular to apply for rural posts.

 

Amongst the proposals put forward by the IMO are:

 

 

  • Immediate investment to stabilize the situation.

 

  • A ring fenced budget over a period of two to three years which would allow rural practice to once again become an option for young GPs.

 

  • Rural GP surgeries should receive an increased rural practice allowance to support the financial viability of the service and the allowance should be focused on the practice rather than the individual GP and greater flexibility should be applied to allow a realistic rural practice allowance be used to support practices in specific areas.

 

  • The distance coding allowance be replaced by a Patient Location Allowance which would provide an increased fee for GPs who make house calls to areas which are at a greater distance from their surgery.

 

  • Additional Practice Nurse/Secretary Support be made available to allow rural GPs to hire necessary supports.

 

  • Review of out of hours arrangements

 

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