Residents fear Sneem will no longer be a village once GP retires

HSE has twice advertised upcoming vacancy in Kerry but failed to attract interested medic

Sneem GP Dr Paddy Malone, who is preparing to retire. The HSE is struggling to find a doctor to replace him in the rural village. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

Sneem GP Dr Paddy Malone, who is preparing to retire. The HSE is struggling to find a doctor to replace him in the rural village. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

 

A petition that aims to attract a doctor to a rural Co Kerry village has so far been supported by about 1,000 people.

Sneem, which has a population of 237 and is on the Ring of Kerry, will soon lose its long-serving GP Dr Patrick Malone, who is preparing to retire.

The HSE has twice advertised the upcoming vacancy but has failed to attract any interest. The deadline for applications to the HSE’s third attempt to fill the post is Friday, August 11th.

German-French couple Jochen Gerz and Laurence Vanpoulle started the “Sneem Needs a Doctor” campaign, initially in the village before moving it online. Mr Gerz, a Berliner who has lived in Sneem for a decade, said that without a doctor, there will be no village.

Locals say the vacancy would leave Sneem relying on medical cover by day from Kenmare, which is more than 30 minutes away, and from Killarney, over an hour away, at night.

“Not only the elderly need a doctor, not only our pharmacy needs a doctor in order to stay open, not only the young families in the town and the many visitors we welcome each year need a doctor”,the petition states, adding that local business would also be in a predicament without a local medic.

Dr Malone described Sneem – which stretches from Derrynane to Blackwater and includes the Parknasilla Hotel and holiday village – as a “compact” place where “there is a comfortable living to be made”.

He appealed to the HSE to favour the application of Spanish locum Dr Hernan Ganzo, who has indicated he intends to apply for the position. He was aware of other instances where “eminently qualified” foreign candidates were ruled out because of technicalities to do with registration in the State.

The HSE needs to use its imagination and ease up on needless restrictions, Dr Malone said, adding that about a tenth of Kerry’s GPs were due to retire in the next 10 months.

“What has been done up to now has not been working,” he said of the inability to fill GP posts in rural areas. “I won’t be replaced unless people pressurise their TDs.”

Sneem is not alone in its struggles to find a GP. It is one of nine towns and villages in Co Kerry facing such a problem and temporary measures are already in place to cover areas such as Waterville and Rathmore.

Dr Gary Stack, a Killarney GP and co-founder of SouthDoc out-of-hours service, said he supported a notion that “in the most isolated areas the possibility of salaried positions” for doctors should be considered.

He said rural GP practices, which are businesses that have staffing and other costs to cover, were dealt a major blow by the Government’s FEMPI (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) legislation, introduced in 2009.

He said there had been a cumulative 38 per cent cut in funding per patient in GP practices under the measures and that it appeared GPs were being excluded from the incremental unwinding of the measures.