Swamped SouthDoc dealt with 220,000 calls in Cork last year

Swamped SouthDoc dealt with 220,000 calls in Cork last year
SouthDoc transport at their base in at Kinsale Road Roundabout Picture: Eddie O'Hare

MORE than 220,000 calls were made to the SouthDoc service in Cork in 2019.

In a letter to GPs in the region, SouthDoc general manager Maura Hussey acknowledged that 2019 was a “particularly challenging year” for the service.

She cited HSE funding, the availability of doctors, and increased service demand as the main issues facing SouthDoc.

The Echo recently revealed issues such as a lack of night-shift cover, cancellation of house calls, and urgent requests to GPs from management seeking cover in the region.

Ms Hussey said the Christmas period was “extremely busy” for the service, and December 26 proved to be the busiest day, as more than 2,000 patients attended, with the 10 busiest days of the year occurring in January or December.

The latest figures show that almost 60,000 of SouthDoc’s caseload in 2019 was made up of children under the age of six.

More than 40,000 patients attended the Cork Southside service in 2019, along with more than 26,000 in Blackpool and around 24,000 in Midleton. Other busy areas included Mallow and Fermoy.

Ms Hussey also highlighted the issues of retaining and recruiting locum cover as a challenge in 2019 — SouthDoc requires around 4,000 locum duties in any one year. Last year, SouthDoc was unable to fulfill around 10% of locum duties required.

Ms Hussey acknowledged this had an impact on the overnight treatment centres where “we tried to have doctors cross cover for each other”.

“Hopefully, as time progresses this situation will improve further,” she said.

“Throughout 2019, the availability of locum doctors has remained an ongoing challenge. The main issue concerned the visa restrictions for doctors entering the country from non-EU areas.

“The visa rules were very restrictive and this had a knock-on effect on the availability of doctors to us,” she added.

Ms Hussey revealed SouthDoc made numerous representations at local and national level to see those restrictions relaxed.

The HSE announced such a relaxation towards the end of 2019.

“This should have a positive impact on the availability of doctors,” Ms Hussey said.

Ms Hussey revealed SouthDoc made numerous representations at local and national level to see those restrictions relaxed.

The HSE announced such a relaxation towards the end of 2019.

“This should have a positive impact on the availability of doctors,” Ms Hussey said.

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