Kilmihil-based GP Michael Harty has been selected as the official Clare GP candidate to contest the forthcoming general election.
The Clare Champion can reveal that Dr Harty will officially launch his general election campaign for a “rural revolution” at a public meeting in Corofin community hall this Tuesday night at 8pm.
Speaking to the Clare Champion, Dr Harty confirmed he has been selected as the “no doctor, no village” candidate as part of GPs national campaign to restore vital financial supports to rural practice.
While no other doctors have officially announced they are making a Dáil bid, Dr Harty may be joined by other medical colleagues supporting this national campaign in Galway, Mayo and other counties in the West of Ireland over the coming days.
His dramatic entry into the Dáil race comes despite a two-week deadline presented to Government deputies to secure a rescue package for rural practice at a public meeting in Corofin last Thursday.
They were urged by doctors at a public meeting in Corofin on Thursday night to convince Health Minister Leo Varadkar to sanction funding totalling an estimated €13.8 million nationally.
This would facilitate the restoration of distance coding, which provided additional funding for rural GPs who had to make more frequent house calls in isolated areas and the restoration of the Rural Practice Allowance (RPA) worth up to €16,000 for an individual practice.
Asked about his decision to run before this deadline had expired, Dr Harty explained because GPs there because was so no progress between the first and second public meeting, they had no expectation that no expectation there would be anything delivered on these two key issues.
“All we have got is rhetoric. Health Minister Leo Varadkar came out over the weekend and was quoted as saying proposal would be put to the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) in the near future in relation to the RPA .
“We have heard about the near future in the past and it hasn’t come yet,” he said.
While the restoration of the RPA and distance coding were the two headline items affecting rural practice, Dr Harty stressed that a lot more broader issues in relation to rural decline were outlined at the last two public meetings.
“There is a huge groundswell of dissatisfaction with the way rural Ireland is being treated in general, not only in general practice and in the health service but the wider rural life.
“There is a constant insidious undercutting of services. We feel it has reached a stage where it has become intolerable. We have to make a stand on rural general practice and wider issues.
“We feel energised by the meetings in Corofin. People are saying their villages are underrepresented. There is an apathy and complacency among our public representatives due to their failure to outline to the government the decline in rural communities, lack of services and lack of supports for GP services,” he said.
If elected, Dr Harty considers the role of a deputy is a “full-time job” and confirmed he would have to secure a locum to run his practice as see whether the Dáil runs for six months, two years or five years.
Acknowledging that going from zero to try and win a seat in six weeks was a “tall order”, he stressed that any doctor elected under the “no doctor, no village” campaign would be an independent voice in Dáil Eireann articulating the problems in rural Ireland.
“We would not be curtailed by party politics or the party whip. We would be able to speak our minds without any fear from the party organisation. This gives us a positive voice in the Dáil.
“As a single deputy, your access to power is limited. However, you can articulate the problems besetting rural Ireland and rural communities,” he said.