I thank the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, for coming to the House to answer questions which have been worrying the community of Kinlough, County Leitrim. While canvassing the area during the Seanad elections, I had the pleasure of visiting the health centre and speaking with the local public health nurse. It was clear from speaking to the various people I met in the area that they felt very let down by the HSE in respect of the primary health centre.
A GP service is currently offered at the health centre twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Fridays, by appointment. In June of last year, I made representations to the HSE regarding the lack of adequate GP cover in the area and I was informed that there are no plans to increase the level of GP cover in the area. I was also informed that on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays there is GP cover at the health centre in Bundoran, which is three miles from Kinlough, or at the primary care centre in Ballyshannon, which is seven miles from Kinlough. A person in the full of their health would have no problem travelling these distances but we need to keep in mind that the people visiting GPs and care centres are not in the full of their health. They are in need of medical attention and, as such, we can rightly assume that they are in some form of pain or distress. The fact they cannot visit a doctor in their own locality only adds to this distress and, in my opinion, it is disgraceful in this day and age. There are other rural locations with a full-time GP service, for example, Bangor Erris and Glenamoy in County Mayo.
For 150 years following the Great Famine, the population of Kinlough village stood at just 350 people. The 2006 census showed an increase for the first time, the 2011 census figures had the population at just over 1,000, an increase of 47% on 2006. The preliminary results from the 2016 census show that this trend is continuing. Kinlough is the third largest urban area in County Leitrim and has the county's largest primary school, which 270 pupils currently attend. It also has three preschools and, like the rest of the country, is home to an aging population.
As a GP, I am only too aware of the pressures on general practice. However, I also feel that, in this instance, there is a compelling argument for an enhanced service. I ask the Minister of State to examine the feasibility of returning the responsibility for Kinlough health centre to the Leitrim primary care area, as opposed to the Ballyshannon-Bundoran area. The community of Kinlough deserves better. They need services which will address the needs of the population, both young and old.