Any plan to have GPs working alongside consultants in hospital emergency departments could result in an 'extraordinarily efficient service' but it will not work as a stop-gap measure, according to a leading GP in Cork.
Dr Mary Favier was responding to an approach by Cork University Hospital to GPs across the city, urging them to sign up for shifts in the A&E.
CUH management sent out an email in recent days seeking GPs to staff the emergency department for weekly eight-hour sessions.
“If it was a planned campaign, rolled out nationally after full consultation, it could work,” said Dr Favier.
“It has proved to be a very successful model elsewhere. A&E is a complex environment and GPs are senior decision-makers who would work well with skilled consultants.
"However, the approach taken by CUH looks more like a stop-gap measure to address hospital staffing shortages.”
Dr Favier said there are also serious staffing shortages among GPs.
“We have huge problems with under-resourcing of GP services. A&E is not our priority. We have our own staffing issues.
"There are not enough GPs being trained and many of those who are trained have gone abroad and are not coming back.”
Dr Favier said that for any such system to work it would have to be done with greater consideration than sending out an email to GPs.
“If they want to employ GPs in the A&E departments they should take a considered approach and do it in consultation with the Irish College of General Practitioners.”
The Irish Patients Association took a positive view of using GPs in emergency departments because they had cut their teeth as interns in a hospital when they first graduated.
“This is not a bad initiative considering pressures CUH has to deliver care under from time to time in an overcrowded Emergency Department that is unsafe.” said a spokesperson.
However, Dr Padraig McGarry, president of the Irish Medical Organisation, described the CUH initiative as like “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
Dr McGarry said: “This appears to be a desperate attempt to plug a hole because the hospital doesn’t appear to be able to recruit appropriate levels of expertise to carry out this function.
“This means they’re taking a GP out of the primary care setting where general practice is already under severe pressure and strain, and it’s only going to make the situation worse there.”
Dr McGarry said if the HSE and hospitals were able to attract appropriately-trained consultants, there would be no need for such a recruitment campaign, especially one which is impacting another health service area.