THE out-of-hours GP service insists there is no major change to the level of service at Shannon, noting if a patient needs to be seen, they will be.
Due to the low level of appointments in Shannon between the hours of 9pm and midnight at weekends, which average two per night, the contrasting high throughput at Ennis and lack of GPs means a GP relocates to Ennis from Shannon for these hours.
In a statement to The Clare Champion following what were described as “unfounded claims” about a closure of the centre, Shannondoc pointed out its GP does not relocate to Ennis if there are further scheduled appointments at Shannon and that it also sends a GP back to Shannon in the event a patient cannot travel to Ennis.
This system has been in place since September 22 and has run well it claimed.
Last weekend, the Shannon centre had just two appointment requests between 9pm and 12 midnight. Both patients travelled the 15 minutes to Shannondoc in Ennis and would have been seen in Shannon if they were unable to travel the service stated.
In the meantime, Shannondoc continued to do housecalls in Shannon between 9pm and midnight. Last weekend, it did two such calls, at 10pm and 10:35pm, on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
“Shannondoc’s Shannon centre is one of our busiest centres and last week alone, from Monday to Friday, it served 112 patients.
“However, that does not deflect from the reality of the extremely low throughput between the hours of 9pm and midnight when our GP can put his or her service to much greater effect for the public out of our Ennis centre,” a Shannodoc spokesman stated.
“Not alone are these closure claims unfounded, they are merely serving to cause unnecessary concern for the community and are, regrettably, indifferent to the sensitivities of the community that needs to know it absolutely can continue to rely on Shannondoc for an out-of-hours GP service,” the a spokesman added.
While Deputy Michael McNamara welcomes assurances from the HSE and the Department of Health that there is not, and will not be, a diminution in Shannondoc services, he remains concerned that there is a problem with resources, a fact also acknowledged by the Department of Health.
“Shannondoc is facing a resource challenge in relation to the availability of doctors, especially in West and North Clare. This is not a HSE funding issue but rather the number of GPs are declining in rural Clare. Ultimately, this is putting a strain on resources.
“That problem is exasperated by the lack of locums and there are two reasons for that. Many locums come from outside of Ireland and the visa regime for these locums has now changed, so that they have to leave Ireland for a portion of the year. It seems like we are saying these people are okay to come here to save our lives but we would not want them to stay.
“That is a really appalling attitude and a real problem, not just for these doctors and their families but the ordinary people who rely on their services.