TEMPERATURES were just above freezing and had been for most of the day, but it didn’t stop 150-200 people turning out for a special meeting in Newmarket-on-Fergus on Monday night.
There were three items on the agenda, and they related to problems that are often found in rural Clare in 2019.
Firstly there was the lack of a GP in the village, secondly was the perceived low level of Garda presence and finally the absence of services from the village’s main street.
Recognising the local concern, Clare’s four TDs travelled as did Senator Martin Conway. Also there were Councillors John Crowe, Michael Begley, Pat McMahon and Cathal Crowe, while the Gardai were represented by Inspector Paul Slattery.
Regarding the failure to replace Dr Colm Hackett as the local GP, Deputy Timmy Dooley read from a HSE letter which said efforts are ongoing.
Currently applications arebbeing sought, while a number of steps have to be taken to form a panel and make an appointment.
Deputy Michael Harty said that almost four years earlier he had begun his political career, at a meeting in Corofin focusing on the recruitment and retention of GPs.
He said that when Dr Hackett had commenced business, it was much easier to become established, but it is very difficult now for new entrants. “When you have an existing practice like Dr Hackett’s, which was here for 40
years, the viability of that practice has been built up. All running costs are behind you and it was a much easier era to set up a practice.”
He said it is so difficult to start off now that many posts are going unfilled. “The cost of setting up a single handed practice in a village like Newmarket is prohibitive so we need a new model of care. The existing contract that GPs work under is no longer fit for purpose and that’s the reason why villages like Newmarket, towns like Monaghan, Roscrea, Thurles and Nenagh are not able to recruit GPs because of the prohibitive costs of setting up.”
Around Ireland some 200 towns and villages have now lost their GPs, he claimed.
Deputy Joe Carey said that the matter had almost been resolved some time ago. “People will be aware there was a recruitment process and three applicants put their names forward. One person was virtually appointed and pulled out at the last minute so they had to restart the recruitment process,” he said.
He claimed that €210 million is being invested to make establishing a new GP practice in a rural area more attractive. “The difficulty people have in trying to get appointments in Shannon is of extreme concern. We do need a GP located in this village and I’m absolutely committed to trying to make it happen,” he said.
He acknowledged that the lack of a GP is causing serious problems without adequate public transport available to attend appointments in other areas.
One member of the large audience said the current gap in service should have been offset. “This should have been put in place a year ago, not now,” he claimed.