Dr Eluned Lawlor
A leading Kilkenny GP is calling on the Minister for Health, Simon Harris to address crippling cuts which have resulted in local GP practices been over-stretched and under resourced.
Dr Eluned Lawlor stated that ‘new patients can’t find a GP to take them on’ and added that eight GPs are due to retire in the city in the next five years.
“By my count there are at least eight GPs due to retire in Kilkenny City alone in the next five years. There is no one to replace them unless we can persuade young doctors to stay, emigrated ones to come back and avoid early retirements. Rural lists have been advertised repeatedly without any applicants,” she said.
Successive cuts to GPs in recent years has ‘crippled practices’ according to Dr Lawlor with funding slashed by up to 38% resulting in morale reaching ‘rock bottom’ and a record numbers of doctors emigrating.
“In our own practive we have had three GPs retire in the last seven years and the GPs we took on to replace them have since emigrated,” she said.
“We are back to five doctors when we had six and a half with an ever-increasing workload exacerbated by free GP care to the under 6's and over 70’s as both of these groups have the highest visitation rates. Research has shown that when a private patient receives free GP care, their visitation rate goes from two visits per year to five or six visits a year. There is no cap on visits and no increase in capitation (fixed annual fee paid to the practice) even if someone has a lot of medical problems and has to use our services more,” she said.
The GP added that ‘most if not all practices in Kilkenny’ are no longer accepting new patients.
“It is not about the money, it is about being able to give appointments and provide a safe service to our existing patients.
“We are seeing a lot of patients Caredoc who have no regular GP. This means that they can’t get routine care, prevention and treatment for ongoing conditions and they may have to see a succession of different doctors. It is firefighting rather than delivering quality, ongoing care and it has an impact on their health.”