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Professor Liam Glynn: “When continuity of healthcare is available in the community, it reduces mortality and hospital attendances.”

Real incentives will tackle rural GP shortage, says Clare doctor

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A PACKAGE of sustainable financial and non-financial incentives for health workers practising in remote rural areas needs to be introduced to tackle the GP shortage, according to a local doctor.

Professor Liam Glynn, who has been a rural GP in Ballyvaughan for 23 years, made the call ahead of a major medical conference in University of Limerick.

Global health leaders including Dr Michael Ryan, Executive director WHO Health Emergencies Programme, will attend the WONCA World Rural Health conference in UL from June 17 to 20.

The need for more family doctors is acutely felt in Clare amid confirmation the HSE received no applications for Dr Michael Harty’s medical card patients panel, despite advertisements on three occasions prior to his retirement at the beginning of March.

Councillor Cillian Murphy was informed at a recent HSE West Forum meeting that two applicants expressed an interest in taking on this panel following a fourth advertisement since Dr Harty’s retirement.

Since February 21 2022, the HSE has had a locum doctor, a practice nurse and a secretary in place five days per week to ensure that GP services for medical card patients at Dr Harty’s’ practice were not disrupted.

The practice nurse has been fully trained in the area of childhood vaccinations and this service is now facilitated from the practice.

With the help of other rural GPs, Professor Glynn co-founded the “No Doctor No Village” advocacy campaign, which electrified Irish politics during the 2016 General Election, during which he was the director of elections for Dr Michael Harty’s successful campaign for the Dáil.

A passionate advocate of providing services in rural areas, he stressed the Rural Practice Allowance needs to be widened and increased to make it more attractive for new GPs to take over a general practice in a remote area.

“Being a Rural GP is a true privilege and one of the most professionally fulfilling careers in medicine where one is embedded in a community and has the opportunity to really be impactful in terms of improving health and wellbeing,” said Professor Glynn.

“We do need to change the negative narrative on Rural GPs so we can attract more young GPs into it.

To maximise rural GP retention, ‘family friendly’ infrastructural supports such as provision of holiday, maternity and sick leave support should be guaranteed. In certain individual settings, provision of salaried rural positions should be considered,” he said.

The Irish College of General Practitioners, the University of Limerick, School of Medicine, and the Rural, Island and Dispensing Doctors of Ireland, are hosting the conference for the first time in Ireland.

Professor Glynn, who is the chair of the organising committee for the World Rural Health Conference, pointed out the Covid-19 pandemic has generated renewed vigour in reimagining life on the periphery as a very attractive place for people and businesses to come, work and live”.

Dr Diarmuid Quinlan, Medical Director of the Irish College of General Practitioners said the conference theme – “Improving Health, Empowering Communities” will explore how communities can be empowered to improve their own health and the health of those around them.

“We hope to do this by hearing from 1,000 plus participants from all over the world in various sectors, including Health, Science, Engineering, the Arts, and NGOs of all shapes and sizes.

“This action-oriented conference is intended to foster a high level of meaningful dialogue and cooperation amongst stakeholders” asserted Dr John Wynn-Jones, a renowned global GP leader who chairs the conference international advisory group.

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