A CORK TD has railed against the suggestion that out-of-hours GP services should be centralised to a single hub in the city.
GPs operating within the SouthDoc service in Cork have said that it is no longer fit for purpose and that there should only be one base in the city.
The out-of-hours GP service in Cork came under fire in political circles during the pandemic after the Blackpool centre on the northside of the city remained closed for over a year.
Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould, who had campaigned for the reopening of the Blackpool centre throughout the pandemic, said that he is opposed to the suggestion that there should be one out-of-hours GP hub in the city centre, instead of the two currently operating on the Kinsale Road Roundabout and in Blackpool.
He said reducing the services would be "contrary to best practice and best outcomes".
However, GPs in Cork have expressed their concerns in relation to the service no longer serving the purpose it was designed to serve.
Midleton-based GP Mike Thompson said that there should be one base as doctors are expected to provide 24-hour-service in addition to their own practices and described dealing with what he said has become a spillover from GP practices as “farcical and dispiriting”.
“What’s going to happen now is that GPs are going to vote with their feet and they’re not coming to work in places like this so the GPs that are left are getting busier and busier by day and busier and busier by night so what will probably happen very shortly is that the edges will start to implode and Listowel, Cahersiveen, Beara, places like that will stop and then places like Midleton and North Cork will just go into the city rota,” he said.
Dr Nick Flynn of MyCorkGp who operates a GP practice in Hollyhill said that as an advocate for his patients, he agrees that there should be an out-of-hours service on the northside of the city but that practically, there are not enough doctors to man the service and that the infrastructure in Blackpool is no longer fit for purpose.
He said that patients on the north side are “really genuinely discommoded by having to go over the Kinsale Road” and that they need to be able to access the service.
Echoing Dr Thompson’s comments in relation to what the service can safely do and can practically do at one centre, he said: “Any discussion around SouthDoc and out-of-hours-service lacks integrity unless you can acknowledge the fact that SouthDoc is not an urgent out-of-hours doctor service anymore and it has become a service that is being used for routine problems which is actually part of the challenge in providing the service.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Gould said that the more health services provided locally, the better the outcome for the communities that they’re in.
“There’s a huge shortage of GPs at the moment nationally, we know that, and SouthDoc are coming at it from that point of view and also from a logistical point of view having one place in the city but that’s contrary to best practice and best outcomes.
He said that reducing the service to run out of one location in the city would be about “reducing costs” despite HSE funding for the Cork-Kerry out-of-hours GP service being increased this year to €7.5 million.
“The HSE told me that the reason for this is not coming from them, they don’t want the reduction of services, they want to keep SouthDoc open in Kinsale Road and Blackpool and other locations in Cork,” he said.
Both the HSE and SouthDoc were contacted for comment.