Concerns at reports that the out-of-hours GP services in the Fermoy and Mitchelstown area will soon cease have been raised by local TD Seán Sherlock.
Fermoy SouthDoc closed, along with several others across the county, during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of a consolidation of services.
SouthDoc operated out of six centres - Mallow, Bandon, Bantry, Castletownbere, Midleton and Kinsale Road - for a number of months until clinics began to reopen across the region in June and early July.
Blackpool SouthDoc services still remain shut.
Now, concerns have been raised after reports emerged that new motions were passed at the SouthDoc Board of Directors AGM that could see the Fermoy SouthDoc centre put under significant strain with as many as one-third of doctors set to no longer practise out of the centre.
Labour TD Seán Sherlock expressed his concerns at the reports of the service's closure saying that it is “very worrying news”.
“We are being told that a structure is being put on that service on the basis that if a GP is over the age of 60 or is pregnant, the service may no longer be sustainable.
“This is very worrying news and if taxpayers' money is being used to fund the SouthDoc service, the matter must be addressed in a way that ensures absolute transparency about the decision-making process. We do not want to see a loss of out-of-hours services in the north Cork area,” he said.
A letter sent to The Echo from a medical practice in the area highlighted a GP’s concerns that a drop in doctors working out of the centre would leave rotas unfilled and “treatment centres will have to close”.
Speaking to The Echo, one GP said he feared "the whole system would collapse”.
Speaking in the Dáil, Minister of State at the Department of Health, Mary Butler, said that in accordance with public health guidance, “patient in-person contact with GPs surgeries and out-of-hours services has been curtailed as much as possible to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“Medical advice is provided over the phone where appropriate, and only patients who are clinically assessed as requiring a face-to-face consultation with a doctor are referred for an appointment,” she said.
She also confirmed that “there are no plans at present to change the provision of SouthDoc out-of-hours services in Fermoy and Mitchelstown”.
Deputy Sherlock said that there “must be transparency about any decision-making procedures where they relate to the diminution of services for a massive geographical area from the Blackwater valley, the Kerry border over to the Waterford border, covering the towns of Mitchelstown and Fermoy and any points in between”.
He also highlighted the “Section 39 issues” and said that a strike will be held by workers on Tuesday, December 15.
He said the situation will continue to be monitored and he will continue to support Section 39 employees because “we want to ensure that we do not lose our GP out-of-hours services, notwithstanding the reduction in capacity”.