Sinn Féin TD, Thomas Gould, has called on SouthDoc to reopen its Blackpool facility immediately.
The Cork North Central TD’s comments come in light of correspondence he received through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request indicating that the HSE has been instructing SouthDoc to reopen the facility since September 18.
The correspondence between Cork Kerry Community Healthcare (CKCH) and the Director of SouthDoc, which The Echo has seen, confirms SouthDoc’s proposal to keep the Blackpool out-of-hours GP service shut.
An updated restoration of services plan had been sought by CKCH since September 18, with SouthDoc confirming on October 1 that it was “not planning on reopening either Listowel or Blackpool treatment centres”.
Director of SouthDoc Joanne Montgomery stated that SouthDoc was operating “at full capacity and at no time whatsoever was there any diminution of the service”.
Ms Montgomery went on to say that “full service delivery was maintained at all times with all patients treated in line with their clinical requirements”.
She said that the Board of Directors “continue to monitor the service demand” and said that in the meantime, SouthDoc “continues to provide a full service, with the appropriate number of doctors on duty with local monitoring and response to needs where and if necessary”.
CKCH said it does not accept SouthDoc’s position on the Blackpool and Listowel services and that the range of contingency plans and protocols agreed in the joint HSE/SouthDoc communications to each Oireachtas and Regional Health Forum Member in Cork and Kerry on March 14, was to allow service respond to Covid-19 and that measures would be “temporary measures only in order to respond to the challenges being posed by Covid-19 in Ireand”.
It said that the proposal to continue with the closure of the Blackpool and Listowel centres poses a “serious risk to unnecessary presentations to the acute hospital and is inconsistent with the Government, Department of Health and HSE priorities of the winter season”.
Deputy Gould labelled the correspondence as “disgraceful”.
“The HSE called for these centres to reopen with “immediate effect” and said that the information on which SouthDoc is basing the decision to keep these centres closed is “unreliable”. SouthDoc replied to the HSE restating that they had no intention to reopen either facility,” he said.
“From my own understanding, after detailed scrutiny of the Service Level Agreement between the HSE and SouthDoc, a failure to reopen the facility by December 31 will be in breach of this agreement upon which funding is based.
“The SouthDoc facilities across Cork and Kerry receive over €7.293 million funding annually from the HSE.
“The Taoiseach has refused to intervene despite repeated calls by myself. The assurance that Minister Donnelly will present a timeline on the reopening of SouthDoc to the Dáil before the Christmas recess on Thursday is just not good enough. SouthDoc have completely disregarded the safety of their patients and the warnings of the HSE,” he said.
Deputy Gould said that we “cannot allow private operators to treat the state in this way” and said that “in the middle of this are ordinary people who are struggling to access out of hours GP services”.
“In Cork, without Blackpool people are being forced to pay €40 in taxis and travel across the city to access emergency healthcare. Coming into the Christmas period now, with many GPs closed, this needs to be sorted,” he said.
A spokesperson for SouthDoc told The Echo that they would not comment on what is an “ongoing process”.
“At this stage it would be entirely inappropriate for SouthDoc to comment on what is an ongoing process,” the spokesperson said.