There is just one GP per 1,000 patients in Cork County, according to new figures from the Medical Council. The regulatory body for the medical profession in Ireland has revealed that there were just 550 GPs in the county in 2017.
Youghal GP Dr Declan Mathews said it is almost impossible to recruit in the area.
“The pressures are huge,” he told The Echo. “As GPs, even if we could afford to bring in assistance in the form of more GPs, there just not there at the moment. Certain areas of the county are very, very low in terms of GP numbers. Some areas aren’t too bad and the city is okay too, but if I left Youghal in the morning, it would be almost impossible to fill my place.
“There just wouldn’t be any interest in it.”
Dr Mathews said that the issue is not money but the working conditions themselves.
“There’s a lot of positivity around the new deal the IMO negotiated, which is great, but it appears to do little or nothing to alleviate the pressure on the GP out-of-hours service,” he said. “One of the reasons that there are so few GPs in the county is the pressure in SouthDoc.
“It’s so onerous and tough and no young GP wants to go near it.” The report from the Medical Council also revealed that almost 3,000 doctors with rights to practise in Ireland withdrew from the medical register between 2015 and 2017. The council said that departing doctors pointed to workplace understaffing and a lack of employer support as reasons for leaving.
They also cited working hours that go against the European Working Time Directive; a lack of respect by senior colleagues; a lack of training options; and an expectation to carry out non-core tasks.
Of the 2,830 voluntary withdrawals recorded, 1,846 practitioners (65.2%) completed the voluntary withdrawals form which outlines doctors’ reasons for voluntarily withdrawing.
Fifty three percent of this group were aged 35 and under, with the majority male, on the General Division and planning to pursue medicine in another jurisdiction. Almost 40% of doctors leaving the register stated they were moving to the UK to practise medicine, 19% to Australia and 27% to another jurisdiction.
Dr Rita Doyle, President of the Medical Council, said that “recruiting and retaining our pool of highly qualified Irish trained doctors is proving challenging”.