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Current Shannondoc system ‘not fit for purpose’

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Families have been put off moving to West Clare because of the shortage in availability of health services, a Kilrush councillor has claimed.

Working scheme permits for non EU doctors working in Ireland were highlighted by Cllr Shane Talty (FF) during a recent meeting of Clare County Council. The Lahinch representative called on the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan to review the terms of the permits issued by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, on his behalf. “The Minister should consider the difficulties experienced in maintaining GP out of hours service and take on board the views of co operatives providing this vital service”.

Twice in August, Shannondoc’s red-eye shift was not in operation due to “an unprecedented shortage of locum GPs” largely caused by the full impact nationwide of the Atypical Working Scheme permit rules enforced by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). Subsequently, West and North Clare was left without emergency medical cover at night.

“We’re looking outside the EU to cover the red-eye shift,” Cllr Talty commented as he referred to the “number of nights when we weren’t served by the Shannondoc”. He added, “Trying to manage this service is next to impossible when doctors have to go through this. The scheme is vital to communities”.

A qualified barrister, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) recalled a case when she was representing a doctor affected by the permit, the medical professional had been “coming and going” to and from Ireland until “Revenue cracked down”. “We are running out of doctors, they are retiring at such a high rate. We are projected to have one million more people by 2040 and an extra two million by 2050. It’s a bigger problem than we think,” she warned.

“It’s one of several spokes to the out of hours service or lack of service,” Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) remarked. “A lot of stuff was removed from West Clare, we can’t get doctors or locums because of this. Now a lot of doctors are using ShannonDoc as a get out clause, the doctors’ conditions aren’t right. The current set up of Shannondoc is not fit for purpose, Loop Head people can’t go to Miltown. The issue with GPs is very concerning where people aren’t taking up the posts”. He felt the motion was “one solution, it’s not the root cause of it”. “We saw Dr Harty being elected to the Dáil on this topic, it still hasn’t been sorted”. He continued, “Part of our remit is rural directorate, I have had three people onto me with an interest in moving back to West Clare but they’ve pulled out when they’ve found out about our health services”.

Ennis representative, Cllr Pat Daly (FF) decried, “There is a huge shortage of doctors. Shannondoc can’t cope with the numbers there. The permit is absolutely stupid, an excellent doctor could come in and has to go in ninety days and wait another thirty before coming back. The demand for doctors is too much that people are being sent to A&E and it is blocking the A&E”.

Putting a solution in place “would improve the situation immensely,” Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) observed. “We’ve a difficulty in Ireland retaining our cohort of doctors, there is a huge amount of doctors going abroad. We need to progress what is being proposed by Shane, it is important that cover is available for communities. It reduces the attractiveness of being a doctor in rural Ireland,” Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) stated.

Correspondence of Cllr Talty’s motion was received by the Department of Justice and Equality.

Newmarket-on-Fergus native, Páraic McMahon is a freelance journalist and broadcaster currently working for numerous national and local publications including The Clare Echo, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent, The Irish Times, RTÉ, TheJournal.ie, The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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