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Councillor Tony O'Brie, who was elected as the new Clare County Council chairman on Friday. Photograph by John Kelly.

ShannonDoc rejects request to meet with Clare councillors

SHANNONDOC has refused a request to meet members of the local authority, over their concerns about its level of out-of-hours GP cover.

It has also defended its track record, saying that it has treated around 700,000 patients from Clare since the service began in 2002.

At the January meeting of the Council, a request was made by Councillor Tony O’Brien that representatives of the service be invited to answer questions as to why access to some of its centres had been reduced.

The Killaloe man said the matter was of particular concern, given the support the service receives from the taxpayer. 

In correspondence seen by The Champion, ShannonDoc turned down the request saying such a meeting would be inconsistent with its policies, given that it has a defined Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Health Service Executive (HSE).

“The company has a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the HSE to provide an out of hours GP service with detailed target KPI (key performance indicator) reports on a weekly and monthly basis.

“Quarterly SLA meetings are held with the HSE to review the company’s activity and to deal with other relevant aspects of primary care in the out of hours service.

“In addition to the structured oversight framework in place, ShannonDoc maintains a very close engagement with our partners in the HSE on all matters concerning patient care in the Mid-West which can sometimes fall outside of the normal SLA framework, i.e. additional Covid-19 services, Ukrainian refugee services, etc.

“It would be inconsistent with the company’s policy to attend a meeting of the Counci; as we are already governed under a strict SLA process and oversight framework with the HSE.”

ShannonDoc did agree to share “a summary” of its service plan for Clare. It has emphasised that it is not an emergency service and not a walk-in one. 

The letter also said that between triage by nursing staff, in-person, video and phone consultations, as well as in-home visits, “every single patient that needs to be seen, is seen”.

Service levels, ShannonDoc has said, will “remain the same as were provided pre-Covid-19…the model of delivery is slightly different,” the letter states.

It says that while a doctor may not be present in every treatment centre, one will be available as required.

A team of mobile doctors, remote doctors and “core treatment centre doctors” will ensure a full service, ShannonDoc said, adding that additional support resources can be provided when required.

In respect of services at five Clare centres, ShannonDoc has flagged that doctors may not be on site at all times in Ennistymon, Miltown, Shannon and Kilrush, but that one is available to see patients if and when required.

The letter adds that weekend services for Ennistymon and Kilrush “will be operational shortly”.

The service in Kilrush is to relocate to the Health Centre on the Kilkee Road, as the previous facility has not been available since 2020, and is no longer viable since the pandemic. The base in Ennis is also to relocate.

ShannonDoc confirmed its commitment to Clare and acknowledged that councillors have “a common interest in the development of primary care”, and said they would deal with specific queries if submitted to the board.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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