Community-based GP services

 

Sir, –Minister for Health James Reilly is severely compromising community-based GP services throughout Ireland.

By further cutting funding to general practice, the HSE and the Minister of Health are fundamentally dismantling the fabric of community medicine in this country. It is time to say stop.

General practice is one of the few aspects of the Irish health system that works well. GPs live and work in local communities. We know the needs of our patients and are delighted to care for them from the cradle to the grave. We act as gatekeepers to the secondary care services. General practice only receives 4 per cent of the total HSE spend on an annual basis, yet 92 per cent of all clinical cases are seen in the primary care setting.

By cutting funding to general practice, the Minister is directly taking funding out of local communities. This action is grossly unfair to patients and doctors alike. This has already resulted in doctors not being able to provide adequate medical services to their patients and is undermining the unique doctor-patient relationship that currently exists.

Do we want to pursue an NHS-type system where patients are expected to wait up to three to four weeks to see their local GP?

If a local hospital is being closed or downgraded, the public outcry is immense, and rightly so. The current cut to funding in community medicine should be greeted with equal amounts of disdain and anger. These cuts are happening unnoticed and patients are not aware of the impact of this action on the services they expect to receive from their general practice. Some may be of the belief that this is a deliberate tactic by the HSE.

On the one hand, GPs are encouraged to invest in the infrastructure of general practice by upgrading and developing their surgery, while on the other hand the HSE is imposing draconian cuts to funding.

In the coming months, general practice will change dramatically in this country and both patients and general practitioners alike will be facing a grim winter of discontent and beyond. – Yours, etc,

Dr KEITH SWANICK,

Swanick Family Practice,

Belmullet,

Co Mayo.