Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Questions (351)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony


351. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a medical centre in Bandon, County Cork, has had vacancies for two general practitioners and has not for some time received one inquiry in respect of same; the way in which he plans to address the matter of recruitment and retention in rural practices, which is leaving general practitioners under pressure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46283/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government is aware of workforce issues facing general practice, including the influence of demographic factors, and has implemented a number of measures to improve recruitment and retention in general practice.

These include changes to the entry provisions to the GMS scheme to accommodate more flexible/shared GMS/GP contracts, and to the retirement provisions for GPs under the GMS scheme, allowing GPs to hold GMS contracts until their 72nd birthday. Enhanced supports for rural GP practices have also been introduced. The number of training places on GP training programmes has been increased in recent years; up from 120 places in 2009 to 192 filled in 2019.

In addition, the recent Agreement on GP contractual reforms will benefit patients and GPs. In return for cooperation with a range of service developments and reforms, the Government will increase investment in general practice by approximately 40% (€210 million) over the next four years. This will see significant increases in capitation fees for GPs who participate in the reform programme and the introduction of new fees and subsidies for additional services such as the chronic disease programme.

There will be increased support for GPs working in rural practices and for those in disadvantaged urban areas. Improvements in the maternity and paternity leave arrangements have also been agreed, in recognition of the need to ensure that general practice is compatible with doctors’ family friendly commitments. I am confident that these measures help make general practice more sustainable and a more attractive career option for doctors.

In relation to GP availability in Bandon, the HSE have advised that there are currently 10 GPs in Bandon with GMS contracts to provide medical services to medical and GP visit card holders. One of those contracts is currently vacant and one is due to become vacant at the end of November 2019.

Efforts are underway to fill both the current and upcoming vacancy with both posts currently being re-advertised. In the meantime, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare is funding a full-time locum GP in the current vacant post so that eligible medical card holders continue to receive the care to which they are entitled, and will also ensure that medical care for eligible patients is in place from 1st December for the upcoming GMS vacancy.