Access to GP appointments is “collapsing” and, as a result, out-of-hours services are in danger of being overwhelmed this Christmas, the medical director for Southdoc has warned.
As the Irish Examiner reports, The HSE said 3,000 more people were seen by out-of-hours GP services around the country last week than the week before, coming to a startling 28,000 patients.
The news comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pledges that all resources will be deployed to tackle the hospital overcrowding and trolley crisis.
He met senior HSE officials yesterday and said it is not about “ascribing blame”, adding that he has full confidence in Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
“I want all resources available to be deployed immediately and over the winter period, and that includes the use of private hospitals, use of overtime, whatever can be done should be done to minimise suffering and inconvenience to patients,” said Mr Varadkar.
Responding to criticisms from Sinn Féin, the Taoiseach said he did not want to get into “political point-scoring”, adding that “the fact that a problem is predictable is not the same as solving it”.
As flu cases and Covid-19 infections spiral, people are turning to GPs for help over another illness-ridden Christmas period.
Southdoc’s Gary Stack said: “People can’t get same-day appointments” during normal working hours.
"Daytime general practice is collapsing, and there is a spillover into the night services as a result."
“Our numbers are up 17 per cent this year so far on last year. This is up 9 per cent on 2019, that was our busiest year to date.”
Southdoc is funded based on the level of patients seen in 2019. Dr Stack said: “That is beginning to cause problems now, we are beginning to exceed the amount of funding provided for.”
He stressed that any patient who needs to be seen will be seen at all out-of-hour services, with priority levels based on clinical need.