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Councillor Tony O'Brien sought a debate on issues relating to ShannonDoc at Clare County Council's monthly meeting. Photograph by John Kelly.

Concerns over ShannonDoc aired at Clare County Council meeting

CONCERN about the closure of out-of-hours GP centres in Kilrush, Shannon and Killaloe was expressed at a Clare County Council meeting on Monday, writes Dan Danaher.

Citing the lack of an any other business item on the council agenda, Councillor Tony O’Brien told the meeting he wanted to raise a number of issues concerning ShannonDoc, which were highlighted in last week’s Clare Champion.

The Fianna Fáil Councillor outlined his concern about the closure of ShannonDoc centres in Kilrush, Shannon and Killaloe in view of the allocation of €5.2 million in taxpayers’ money.

He proposed ShannonDoc management should be invited to make a presentation at a council meeting and answer questions about why these centres remain closed and what services they are providing for public funding they are receiving.

“I believe ShannonDoc made a substantial operating surplus in 2020.”

Council chairman, PJ Ryan advised Councillor O’Brien he was fully entitled to table this proposal at the next local authority meeting as it couldn’t be discussed that day because it wasn’t on the agenda.

Councillor O’Brien suggested the local authority meetings’ administrator should write to ShannonDoc inviting their senior management to attend a meeting. Councillor Ryan said he could only deal with two special motions, which were already on the agenda.

Acknowledging Councillor O’Brien had raised a number of important issues, the chairman advised him to table his proposal at the next council meeting.

The 2020 audited financial statement for ShannonDoc revealed the number of calls handled by the company fell by 12% from 112,273 in 2019 to 98,178 in 2020.

It also shows income from the General Medical Card Service GMS increased from €1,050,607 in 2019 to €1,900,655 in 2020. Overall income jumped from €7,306,717 in 2019 to €8,032,116 in 2020.

This included income in 2020 from HSE Out-of-Hours €4,639,883; HSE Specimen Collection: €258,319; HSE SATU €49,275; HSE Methadone clinics and psychology services income: €176,297; HSE Other Income: €92,940; members’ contributions €654,433 and private patients’ income €154,384.

The company received more than 50% of its income in the year from state funding through the HSE.

According to the ShannonDoc Reinstate Committee, for the past number of weeks Miltown Malbay has started to be manned
again from 6pm – 11pm weekdays and 12pm to 12 am at weekends.

However, apart from these times, the group stated Ennis is the only other centre operating, as Shannon, Kilrush and Ennistymon remain closed.

In a statement issued to The Clare Champion by Noeleen Moran and Deirdre Culligan of the ShannonDoc Reinstate Committee, they stated ShannonDoc received a grant of €5,216,713 to provide an out- of hours GP service to the people of the Midwest in 2020.

In 2021, 99,054 patients presented to the ShannonDoc service across the region. Over the Christmas period alone, almost 8,000 patients were cared for by the co-op.

Despite the significant challenges presented by Covid-19 in 2020, ShannonDoc maintained an urgent out-of-hours GP service caring for 98,178 patients across the region.

In a statement issued to The Clare Champion, ShannonDoc stated the 2020 surplus is being reinvested back into the organisation to improve the level of service to all stakeholders including the patients, member GPs and the HSE and to ensure the ongoing sustainable development of the co-op.

“In 2020, the income earned by ShannonDoc for providing medical consultations to medical card holders under the GMS scheme increased significantly.

“The reason for the increase is due to the fact that during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, out of hours STC claims (GMS income) were stopped across the country; instead funding was provided to General Practitioner Out of Hours Services to replace the GMS income shortfall.

“As a result, the member doctors were no longer able to claim the out of hours STC revenue. Instead ShannonDoc is in receipt of all GMS income. Payments to doctors also increased.

“Additionally, ShannonDoc has achieved cost reductions and improvements in the efficiency of the operation while continuing to adapt to the challenges presented by Covid-19.

“The company availed of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme for a small cohort of employees for a limited period in 2020. Net supports received under this scheme totalled €15,580. These were approved by the Revenue Commissioners.”

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