FAMILY doctors have called on Health Minister Mary Harney to halt centralisation of acute hospital services until safe and accessible alternatives are in place.
Plans by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to transform the manner in which healthcare is delivered were criticised at the weekend by doctors attending the Irish Medical Organisation’s annual conference in Killarney, Co Kerry.
Doctors said primary care teams, supposed to take some of the pressure off acute hospital services, were not functioning in the successful manner claimed by the HSE; budget cutbacks were decimating community-based services and hospitals were losing acute services without any consultation with GPs.
“You need to tell people their lives will not be as safe as they used to be. When there is an emergency, we will not be able to save their lives in the same way. You remove a service, you remove something that is extremely valuable,” said Dr David Molony, a GP based in Mallow, Co Cork.
Dr Molony was speaking in favour of a motion that an out-of-hours GP service will not accept new roles such as pre-hospital emergency care or back up for nurse-led minor injury units. The motion was subsequently passed.
The IMO North East GP branch called for clarification on the 40 primary care teams planned for the north-east region.
“To my knowledge there is just one team, and that is one of the pilot teams. We were told by the HSE that these teams would be fast-tracked, but they are nowhere near up and running,” said Meath GP Dr Martin White.
Dr Ciaran Donovan, a Cork city GP, said the primary care team involving six practices and 13 GPs in Blackpool was “virtually irrelevant” as a day-to-day service.
“I would be more upset if I heard one of my nurses was sick than if I heard the primary care team was out of action,” he said.
Doctors from Co Clare criticised the restriction of emergency services at Ennis General Hospital as part of the HSE transformation programme.
“There was no engagement with GPs in the process,” said Dr Michael Kelleher. “We had two information meetings, the first two weeks before the closure and the next as the closure was taking place.”
Doctors said that there was no expansion of resources in primary care to match the reduction of hospital services.
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