GP Rural Practice Allowance must be fully restored – Calleary

GPMayo Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary has warned that Government cutbacks to the Rural Practice Allowance are resulting in the erosion of GP care in rural Ireland.

Deputy Calleary pointed out that if the current trend of GP retirements continues then many rural communities face the prospect of having no GP cover in the years ahead.

“Communities in rural Ireland are feeling increasingly isolated as a result of the policies pursued by the Government. The Rural Practice Allowance was originally put in place to support GP care in rural Ireland. However the Government has targeted this scheme for cutbacks since coming to office, and this has resulted in a decline of GP practices outside of large urban areas,” said Deputy Calleary.

“Ireland is expected to experience a significant shortage in GP’s over the next ten years. We are currently training less than 160 GP’s each year but the HSE admits that up to 1,400 new GP’s may be required in the next decade. Rural Ireland will suffer the most as a result of this GP shortage as practices relocate to large urban areas.

“We have already seen the effect that the cutback to the Rural Practice Allowance has had in the Erris Peninsula. The Bangor and Glenamoy communities were left devoid of a GP Service for a number of months in 2015 while the HSE deliberated whether a Rural Practice Allowance would be granted for each position. While these positions were eventually filled, the lack of a service in both areas during that period greatly impacted upon the level of service provided by the GPs in Belmullet Town as they took on the additional patients. This was an extremely unfair, not to mention dangerous, situation for patients in the Erris area.”

“If the current trend continues then GP care will only be available in large urban centres. Communities across Mayo will suffer. Rural communities have already lost their post offices, Garda stations, banking services and now their healthcare is under threat.

The Government needs to put in place a comprehensive plan to retain community based GP care. The Rural Practice Allowance must be overhauled to make it attractive for newly qualified GP’s to setup practice in rural areas. Every effort should be made to encourage community based GP care instead of centralising practices in large urban centres,” concluded Deputy Calleary.