A SHORTAGE of doctors is leaving SouthDoc understaffed and patients vulnerable, it has been claimed.
SouthDoc aims to provide general practice doctor services for urgent medical needs outside of normal hours in the Cork and Kerry region, as well as a call-out service to those unable to travel.
However, doctor shortages and funding issues have seen the service short-staffed in recent times.
The Echo has learned that there was just one doctor on duty for three nights over the bank holiday weekend in SouthDoc’s city office on the Kinsale Road when there is supposed to be at least two.
A text sent out to GPs on Friday afternoon revealed that night shifts for that evening and for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, were yet to be filled.
While two doctors were found for one of the nights, there was just one GP on duty the other three in an area that caters for thousands of people.
A source told The Echo that capacity is “significantly reduced” as is the ability to provide house calls, when just one GP is on duty.
“This leads to increased A&E attendance where bedbound patients are referred to the emergency department because there is no other way to have a medical assessment for them,” the source explained.
“It also leaves some vulnerable people without a GP, as they will not attend the A&E and therefore, go without an assessment.”
The revelations come just days after the Irish Examiner reported that SouthDoc may be forced to cut the number of its treatment centres because of funding pressures and doctor shortages.
The Examiner said that a meeting with the HSE and SouthDoc is due to take place shortly to discuss options.
The Echo had revealed earlier on this year that the SouthDoc service had been coming under increasing pressure as it tried to cater for more patients who are unable to get a GP appointment here in Cork.
A GP said the service was “just about functioning” in recent months, but that any increase in demand could see it reach crisis stages due to a lack of available GP appointments across the county.
The HSE has been contacted for comment.