A CORK TD has said the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly are “failing” his constituents with their lack of intervention in the call to reopen SouthDoc Blackpool.
Sinn Féin’s Thomas Gould described the continued closure of the out-of-hours GP service on the northside of the city as “unbelievable”.
In March last year, SouthDoc, the GP out-of-hours service in Cork and Kerry, stated that it planned to close down a number of its clinics in Cork, including Blackpool, in implementing a “consolidated model” in the face of Covid-19.
However, while other clinics have since reopened, Blackpool has remained closed, despite correspondence received by Mr Gould from the HSE and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirming that the centre would reopen on January 18.
In a statement issued by SouthDoc on January 15, it was confirmed that SouthDoc would “continue to deliver the service in a consolidated format until the current wave has abated”.
Information received by Mr Gould under freedom of information (FoI) showed that the chief officer of Cork Kerry Community Care, Michael Fitzgerald, had expressed deep concern regarding SouthDoc’s decision in correspondence with SouthDoc chairwoman Joanne Montgomery.
Last month, Mr Gould wrote to the Public Accounts Committee requesting that it investigate the continuing closure of SouthDoc Blackpool.
In his letter to the committee, he cited information secured under FoI in December 2020 indicated that the HSE had been instructing SouthDoc to reopen the facility since September last year.
Mr Gould said Mr Martin should be doing more for Cork: “SouthDoc Blackpool has been closed for more than a year now. Documents released to me under the freedom of information show that the HSE has been in constant contact with SouthDoc over the last number of months and have warned that they feel they [SouthDoc] don’t understand the urgency of the matter.
“People on the northside of Cork City and surrounding areas are suffering with no out-of-hours GP service.
“As a Corkman, he [Micheál Martin] should be doing so much more for the people of this city. In a situation like this, whereby a private operator is treating the HSE in this way, the Taoiseach should be involved.
“I won’t be letting this issue go. The Taoiseach and the minister for health are failing my constituents.”
A spokesperson for the HSE said: “The HSE wishes to confirm that it has been in contact on a number of occasions with SouthDoc, in relation to a proposed timeframe for the reopening of services in both Blackpool and Listowel.
“These are the two remaining centres that have not seen a restoration of services of out-of-hours medical provision across the two counties. The HSE acknowledges fully the difficulties that Covid has raised in the provision of the out-of-hours service and the over-riding need to protect patients, GPs and support staff of the service.
“The HSE is seeking clarity with regards to the reopening of these centres and it understands that the board of SouthDoc will be meeting later in the month. The HSE has requested a response from SouthDoc on the matter so that it can consider SouthDoc proposals and to ensure that they remain in line with the existing service arrangement between the parties.”
SouthDoc was contacted for comment.