Working life: Kieran Harkin, GP with SafetyNet

Fridays begin at St James Hospital, Dublin, where I take part in ‘grand rounds’. 

This is a meeting where specialists present medical dilemmas and discuss recent advances in medicine. 

There are usually in excess of 100 clinicians and it’s a great opportunity to meet with colleagues.


I head to the Salvation Army on Granby Row which is a hostel for homeless people with a medical clinic. 

I am a GP in a regular general practice in Inchicore and also a practice called Safetynet, an organisation of GPs who provide primary care to homeless and marginalised people in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway.

Friday is one of my Safetynet days. Patients tend to have complex physical, social and psychological illnesses so I need to work with a team of nurses, mental health colleagues and key worker staff. 

Alcohol and drug addiction is a particular problem and so methadone treatment is a large part of my work.


I head to Merchants Quay Ireland where homeless and drug users avail of a range of treatment services. 

Many of those who come to Merchants Quay see it as somewhere to get a square meal but it’s much more than that. 

It provides help with housing and employment, with drug and alcohol detox, counselling, dental services, chiropody, and needle exchange, as well as a general medical and nursing service. 

Once a week a general physician from St James Hospital runs a clinic in the centre for those patients who have difficulty availing of hospital clinics.


I attend a meeting in St James Hospital with the neurology team to explore the problem of poorly controlled epilepsy, which is prevalent among the homeless population. 

We also explore the problem of communication with homeless persons regarding appointments etc.


I have a meeting with my Safetynet GP colleagues to review ongoing service issues which need development — invariably this focuses on how to persuade the HSE to regard our service as a primary care team and to develop a primary care centre for homeless persons.


I devote an hour to administration such as completer referral letters/ review lab results etc.


Home for tea with my wife and four daughters. I’m conscious of how fortunate I am.

* Kieran Harkin is a GP working in Inchicore, Dublin and with SafetyNet


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