Clare doctor to run as Independent representing GPs in rural Ireland
Dr Michael Harty supported by the ‘No Doctor, No Village’ campaign
Clare GP Dr Michael Harty: to stand in general election as Independent. Photograph: Eamon Ward/NAGP
Dr Harty, who has a practice in Kilmihil in Co Clare for 32 years, has been put forward by the “No Doctor, No Village” campaign to fight to restore GP income that was cut during the austerity years.
His bid for election will be announced in Corofin tonight.
Dr Harty told The Irish Times that the group of doctors had explored all other democratic ways to get allowances restored, including asking local TDs for help and travelling to Leinster House to meet Ministers, but had got nowhere.
“We’ve had no progress. We’ve now decided to go to the people,” he said.
Dr Harty said he had not been involved in politics before, but was ready for the challenge.
“I’m confident that we can portray and explain the difficulties that face rural people. GP issues are one of those issues. We’ll go big or go home,” he said.
Dr Harty said that because of the cuts to allowances during the austerity years, GPs had struggled more and more each year to keep their practices open.
“Now we’ve reached rock bottom. GPs pared back as much as we could. We have to fight back,” he said.
Dr Harty said there were currently up to 25 vacancies across the State, and about 900 GPs planned to retire or emigrate in the next five years.
“Young GPs don’t see a future here because it’s become so difficult to keep your head above water,” he said.
Dr Harty said it was important to fight for villages, such as Feakle and Kildysart, who have been left without a local full-time GP.
He said too many services were already decimated in rural Ireland, including post offices, public transport and broadband.
“Rural Ireland feels quite undervalued and undermined,” Dr Harty said.
In response to calls for action from GPs nationwide in recent months, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar unveiled revised financial supports for doctors last week. Almost 100 extra GPs would qualify for rural practice allowance payments of up to €16,200 each year.
Dr Harty said the announcement would make no difference to his election run. “It’s not going to stop us in our campaign because we’ve heard all this before,” he said.