Family doctors have “yet to see the evidence” that systems will be in place to allow the delivery of an abortion service from January 1, according to the vice-president of the Irish Irish College of General Practitioners.
Mary Favier, a Cork-based GP, said it was “an exceptionally demanding deadline”.
“It’s a deadline constructed by the minister [Simon Harris] and it’s his deadline. There is a huge amount to be put in place, such as referral pathways.
“The minister has assured us it will happen, but we have yet to see the evidence. We are concerned.”
Dr Favier said introducing an abortion service is a huge societal and cultural shift that is effectively supposed to happen overnight.
“It’s a huge ask to change from a deeply chilling environment where not only was abortion not available, but it couldn’t even be discussed, to introducing it by January 1,” said Dr Favier.
“We will step up to the plate, but we can only do it with the minister’s support and with resources. And we are waiting.”
She warned of the possibility of “pent-up demand” for an abortion service come the new year as women who are just now learning they are pregnant and who wish to have an abortion are likely to defer it in anticipation of a legitimate service being available in Ireland from January 1.
Doctors remain hugely concerned about the level of progress made in preparing for the introduction of abortion. One source told the Irish Examiner that GPs had warned the Department of Health last June that they “needed to get moving”, but that apart from a meeting, “the reality is there was no work done until September”.
The source said a model of care was being worked on, but was not signed off on yet.
An extraordinary general meeting of the ICGP at the weekend was told by Medical Council president Rita Doyle that revised guidance for doctors in relation to abortion provision and conscientious objection would not be be ready for January 1, according to a source.
One doctor who attended told the Irish Examiner that at least two GP out-of-hours co-ops said they were not prepared to engage with an abortion service.
Separately, a meeting organised by Start, the Southern Taskgroup on Abortion and Reproductive Rights — a group of up to 80 doctors drawn from general practice, obstetrics, and gynaecology and psychiatry in Munster — may not now go ahead due to security concerns.
The educational meeting is due to take place in Limerick tonight but it is understood a high-ranking staff member within the University of Limerick Hospital Group has been sent posters labelling it a “serial killer”.
Mike Thompson, a GP member of Start, said family planning doctors are not due to take part in an education and training programme until January 15.
He said constructive discussions had taken place at Cork University Maternity Hospital in relation to the introduction of abortion services.