SHANNONDOC insists Clare patients continued to receive an out-of-hours service, despite there recently being no GP in the county on five successive nights after midnight, writes Dan Danaher.
Between January 3 and 14, ShannonDoc never reached more than 32% of total doctor capacity available from midnight to 8am.
An average of five patients in Clare were treated every night between midnight and 8am by one of ShannonDoc’s remote or mobile doctors.
Noeleen Moran of The Reinstate Shannondoc Commmittee (RSC) claimed there was no GP available in Clare after midnight from January 7 to January 12 inclusive.
In addition to this period, Ms Moran stated there was no doctor in Ennis after midnight on January 4, 12 or 14 either.
“Not alone are centres in Shannon, Ennistymon and Kilrush closed, centres at Ennis, Miltown Malbay and Killaloe are not operational on some nights after midnight,” claimed Ms Moran.
“The out-of-hours service in Limerick is being stretched to cover the whole of county Clare as well. I have no issue with ShannonDoc generating profits if they are providing a proper service but clearly this is not the case.”
ShannonDoc’s surplus for the 2020 financial year after providing for depreciation and taxation amounted to €742,082 compared to €103,591 in 2019. (See Clare Champion story here)
However, ShannonDoc has stated its services were in no way curtailed from January 3 to January 14 even though 30% of its workforce had to self-isolate due to Covid-19.
The service, which includes a full triage nurse and on-call GP service, was fully available to all Clare patients, it said.
“Owing to the continued enormous effort and commitment of our nurses, doctors and support staff working additional shifts, which we are extremely grateful for, the service was maintained to patients in all areas,” a spokesperson stated.
In a statement issued to the Clare Champion, ShannonDoc outlined the introduction of mobile doctors, remote doctors and core treatment centre doctors, all centrally co-ordinated by dispatchers and nurses, in a new model of care introduced since March 2020 ensures that all areas are covered.
“Significant investment has also been made to upgrade the telephony and IT infrastructure, which has played an important part in the remote capabilities of the service.
“In normal circumstances, those doctors, nurses and support staff that were required to self-isolate would not be available to work or care for our patients.
“But thanks to the improved IT infrastructure and increased remote capabilities, the doctors were able to continue to provide phone consultations and triage nurses were able to provide the remote triage nurse assessments.
“Furthermore, the new E-prescribing function has enhanced the service to patients by facilitating the issuing of prescriptions the pharmacy of the patient’s choice – without them having to leave their own home to attend the treatment centre.
“Even if a doctor is not present in the treatment centre, a mobile doctor will be available to patients as required.
“This means that following triage, the doctor will come and see patients in the relevant centre or carry out a home visit or arrange a virtual consultation as deemed clinically appropriate.
“In addition, where there are increased demands in certain areas, support teams can be deployed from other locations providing an overall seamless service and ensuring services are provided where most needed,” the statement concluded.
Deirdre Culligan of Reinstate ShannonDoc said the lack of doctors on call was a “dangerous precedent” to set for the service.
She said if Clare people can’t get an out-of-hours service in Clare this increases the chances of them seeking admission to the overcrowded ED in University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
This is despite the fact that UHL has appealed to the public to consider all other treatment options before attending the hospital.
She called on ShannonDoc to issue notifications on their website and various media outlets when they become aware that a doctor will not be on call.
“People don’t call a doctor at night unless they really need one. Patients shouldn’t have to ring ShannonDoc to find out there is no doctor on call in Clare. That should be public knowledge.
If water or electricity is cut off in your locality, residents are notified about the interruption in supply.”
She said there is an onus on ShannonDoc to ensure that locum cover is in place after midnight if local doctors aren’t available.
“When we started this campaign five years ago, ShannonDoc told us there would be a shortage of GPs. In the last five years, ShannonDoc, the HSE, the Department of Health and the government have done nothing to address this. The government announced recently there would be a shortage of doctors in five years’ time.”
“I don’t blame GPs who are strung out from work but I do blame a co-op that was set up to provide the out-of-hours service.”
Councillor Tony O’Brien 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 at a recent council meeting.
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.