The first minister to introduce Skype clinics, in a rural coastal constituency, is considering expanding the service. With a demand for constituent clinics quadrupling since Jim Daly became a minister in the Department of Health last June, he began hosting Skype clinics from his Dublin office.
The minister of state for mental health and older people serves a sprawling constituency extending from Minane Bridge east of Kinsale to the Beara peninsula. The out-of-hours online meetings are to be further rolled out to constituents more than 100km away from his constituency office in Bandon.
“Thanks to the popularity of the Skype clinics I began in recent weeks, I now intend to extend them to locations such as Castletownbere.
“One of my staff members, who have been very accommodating, will go out with the laptop for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings when I’m in Dublin.”
Mr Daly said: “I’ve carried out over a couple dozen Skype clinics now and they’re very helpful for people. I’ve been taking calls from my Dublin office after the Fine Gael parliamentary party meetings on Wednesday evenings. It’s just part of my routine now, and I look forward to expanding the service further.”
After his promotion to ministerial office, Mr Daly said: “There was such huge demand that it was leading to delays, long queues and time pressure, so we were looking for an alternative way to facilitate people and alleviate the pressure on the traditional clinics.
“I began by making phonecalls to people, but I think people prefer to speak to you face-to-face.
“So I said I would try Skype and see if it went well, and we’ve been very pleasantly surprised.”
He added: “When people phone in to know when my clinics are, they’re given the times of my clinics which, more often than not, are during the working day — so a lot of people can’t make them. The 7pm time slot suits a lot more people. Nobody has expressed any reservation or any hesitance with this method.”
The Cork South West TD believes the online service is facilitating people who, ordinarily, would not get to speak to him.
“We’re reaching a new audience,” he said, “thankfully I have very accommodating staff in Bandon who are willing to work late to facilitate the Skype calls.”
The Skype clinics, he said, were in addition to weekly constituency clinics in Skibbereen, Clonakilty and Bandon and monthly clinics.
“The Skype clinics are there to complement the clinics, not replace them,” Mr Daly asserted.
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