Hundreds of GPs are expected to take part in a protest in Dublin today, which is aimed at highlighting a lack of investment in GP services.
The protest has been organised by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP). According to its chairperson, Dr Andrew Jordan, this is the only way that it can highlight to the Government ‘that general practice is dying'.
The association pointed out that currently, there are 26 communities without GPs nationwide. Furthermore, 700 GPs are due to retire in the next four-to-five years, and an increasing number of newly qualified GPs are choosing to work abroad.
It also noted that 70% of practices outside of Dublin are not taking on new patients as they are already at capacity. As a result, entire counties, such as Monaghan, now have no GPs who can take on new patients.
Meanwhile, waiting times of four to seven days for routine appointments are now the norm in many practices nationwide.
"Some 50% of GP practices are in debt trying to keep going. There are now entire communities where GPs have retired and not been replaced and there are not enough GPs to handle the demand.
"Young, newly trained GPs are emigrating and there is no one to replace older GPs. General practice in Ireland is literally dying because it is not being properly resourced. Government funding for primary care was cut in 2010 and was never restored," the NAGP claimed.
According to NAGP president, Dr Maitiú O Tuathail, the neglect of general practice by the Government ‘will lead to its extinction'.
"The people of Ireland must carefully consider how they will vote come election time if they want their families to continue to have GPs into the future".
"Patients cannot get GP appointments and GPs cannot get adequate funding for nursing staff, administrative staff and for simple diagnostic tools, which enable patients to be treated rapidly in the community," Dr O Tuathail said.
The NAGP insisted that the cuts introduced in 2010 must be restored and further investment must be introduced over the next decade in order to ensure essential reform.
The cuts in 2010 were part of FEMPI (Financial Measures in the Public Interest), which were introduced in a number of sectors to deal with the recession.
According to the NAGP, cuts of 38% were imposed on general practice at that time, but have never been restored. This was not a cut to GP wages, but to resources.
As a result, the profession is seen as non-viable by many graduates and in 2017, for the first time ever, not all GP training places were taken up. Meanwhile, 45% of GP trainees have indicated that they plan to emigrate for better terms and conditions elsewhere.
The protest will take place at Dail Eireann at 2pm.
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