Ó CAOLÁIN CALLS FOR PLAN TO ADDRESS GP SHORTAGE

3 November 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Cavan-Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called for a primary care strategy to address the shortage of general practitioners and their uneven distribution across the country.
 Speaking on a new Bill which opens up to more GPs access to treat patients under the medical card scheme, Ó Caoláin welcomed the Bill but said that it did not do enough to ensure that communities were properly served by GPs. He told the Dáil:
 “There is an acute shortage of general practitioners in this State and this is one of the most serious problems in our health service. We have around 52 GPs per 100,000 population; France has 164, Austria 144, Germany 102 per 100,000. We also have a situation in this State where some areas –especially disadvantaged areas – have far fewer doctors per head of population. For example, Tallaght has just 24 GPs for a population of 71,000.
 “An ESRI Report in 2009 showed that in terms of GP distribution, Cork, Galway and Waterford are better supplied with an average of more than 65 GPs per 100,000, while Clare, Offaly, Monaghan, Laois, Meath and Kildare have the worst ratios at less than 45 GPs per 100,000.
 “The ESRI predicted that Dublin, Limerick, Tipperary South and Monaghan will fare better from now until 2021. The worst served counties will be Meath, Laois, Cavan and Wexford. By 2021, it is projected Meath will have only 27 GPs per 100,000 population compared to 63 in Cork. Kildare and Laois will have little more than 30 GPs.
There are further wide variations in our cities.
 “The question is will opening up the GMS scheme, without other measures, address the overall shortage of GPs? And, crucially, will it address the unbalanced distribution of GPs which leaves many communities so poorly served?
 “We don’t know the answers to these questions. What we do know is that a market-based approach will not ensure balanced distribution of GPs and an adequate service for all communities. It could very well see an even greater concentration of GPs in more prosperous areas where there are, for example, a high number of older GMS patients and a potentially bigger pool of fee-paying private patients.
 “This all points to the need for a comprehensive planned approach to primary care, an approach that is still sadly lacking.”

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