A Cork GP has warned that SouthDoc will struggle to cater for patients if proposed strike action goes ahead.
Dr Nick Flynn was speaking after SIPTU announced plans to ballot members of some Section 39 organisations for strike action.
Southdoc and Saint Vincent De Paul are two of a number of Cork services and facilities that could be affected by the action.
The ballot action follows the refusal of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) to honour a recent pay restoration agreement.
Section 39 workers are classed as private-sector workers but their employers are grant-aided by the HSE to provide services mainly in the health and social services sectors.
Traditionally, their pay has been linked to rates in the public service.
“The SouthDoc staff are vital cogs in the wheel,” said Dr Flynn.
“Without them, there would be no SouthDoc and we’d be back to the old system where doctors are forced to look after the admin, stock and other issues as well as the patients.
“SouthDoc couldn’t actually function in its current format without the admin staff and drivers,” he added.
“They do so much and ensure that doctors can focus on patients.
“They welcome and triage patients, ensure the centre is stocked and fit for purpose, and more.
“If they go on some kind of industrial action, it would make the operation of SouthDoc very difficult.
“I couldn’t see SouthDoc lasting more than a few days without those staff.” As well as providing administration and support at SouthDoc, Dr Flynn said the drivers are also vital for health and safety reasons.
He explained that a foreign doctor would need the driver to ensure timely responses to house calls.
“It’s also good to have someone for support and safety when you’re out on a night call,” said Dr Flynn.
“We shouldn’t have doctors driving around on their own at night.
“We don’t know the patients a lot of the time so it’s not safe having doctors out on their own at late night house calls,” he added.
“Before SouthDoc, I used to make some house calls late at night and you’d be afraid of being attacked and having no support there.”