Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said that Government unwillingness to support rural GP services has now become an active threat to peoples welfare. Deputy McGrath made his comments following confirmation from the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) that up to 32 rural doctor posts remain unfilled:
“We are at the stage where a combination of Governments policies now constitutes a serious threat to the health of rural areas. Its unwillingness to support the funding of the Rural Practice Allowance for example has prevented doctors who would otherwise love to practice in rural areas from doing so.
It was always understood, for decades, that rural GP’s needed a modest support structure in place to be able to function in those areas and remain viable at a financial level.
That understanding seems to have vanished within the Department of Health. It is simply not good enough to speak of moving supports to well-funded primary care centres in urban areas and neglect rural communities. Apart from the inherent unfairness, when you couple this approach with the on-going threats to rural transport, it all adds up to a very depressing scenario for small communities who would like and deserve their own GP.
The Government is simply not addressing the full impact of its de facto policy of inaction that is undermining rural health. These numbers we are speaking about today only serve to confirm that view,” concluded Deputy McGrath