Independent TD Mattie McGrath has described the latest attempt to reverse the decline in rural GP practice as insufficient and lacking in ambition. Deputy McGrath was speaking as the HSE unveiled plans to revise the existing criteria which are in currently being used to determine which GP’s may qualify for the rural practice allowance:
“The Government have been continuously warned that there is a full scale emergency in rural GP practice. The solution that they and the HSE have come up with however falls far short of what is actually needed.
It fails to take into account, and indeed ignores the core concern of many people in rural communities who want supports put in place for a practicing GP in their locality; not up to seven miles away which is what is currently being proposed under the revised criteria.
Such a vision offers no practical improvement on the existing scenario.
In point of fact these new plans make it more not less likely that GP’s will be able to be physically present in rural areas because it keeps the financial support urban centred.
Even the figures from HSE which suggest that less than 20 rural GP practices are vacant are way off the mark. From the data I have seen and which has been confirmed by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), up to 32 rural doctor posts remain unfilled.
This demonstrates the continuing desire within the HSE to downplay the scale of the crisis.
Until we have a genuine, coherent system of supports put in place to rebuild rural GP infrastructure, including a revision of the cuts which occurred under the Financial Emergency Provisions in the Public Interest, the inability of rural people to access a local GP will continue to deepen,” concluded Deputy McGrath.