25 Jun 2022

Editorial: Primary Care needs minding

For the first time, 16 GP training places remained unfilled this year- with 170 filled, according to the Department of Health.

Editorial: Primary Care needs minding

Doctors on the ground say 200 GPs annually should be getting trained

The county needs quality Primary Care services - with GPs at its epicentre - who to date have been neglected by successive governments.

Dr Richard Brennan’s comments, published in this newspaper today, carry significant weight and should be a stark warning to those in power - address the GP crisis now or the beds problem will be the least of your worries.

For the first time, 16 GP training places remained unfilled this year- with 170 filled, according to the Department of Health.

However doctors on the ground say 200 annually should be getting trained - so even if there was a full complement, it would not be enough.

More worryingly, the HSE, based on the demographic profile of current General Medical Service GPs, expects that approximately 157 GPs may retire on age grounds between 2017 and 2021.

This translates into over three GPs a month across the country over the next four years. The figures and the words of those at the coalface of this issue reveal that at no stage has the issue of Primary Care and GPs ever been as urgent.

Mr Brennan says the ability of GPs to provide additional capacity, additional doctors and practice nurses to provide care is “seriously curtailed”. In order to ensure a viable business model for future GPs, investment is required both in General

Practice and in the wider Primary Care setting. A reversal of the cuts of 38% during the austerity years is central to ensuring the survival and the future viability of General Practices.

The second problem is the shortage of younger doctors who are willing to enter General Practice training and who on qualification do not find it attractive to remain in Ireland, let alone Kilkenny - to provide care for communities.

These professionals need to be enticed into staying and improved contracts can achieve this aim. As Mr Brennan says there is international competition for doctors.

He is right in his argument that GPs must be allowed to provide increasing amounts of support and care within communities into the future, and General Practice should remain the cornerstone of locally based care.

Only the government can ensure this.

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Stan Lalor, Director of Knowledge Transfer Teagasc; Marianne Mulhall, Teagasc Advisor; Clifford and Eileen Balding host farmers and Frank O’Mara, Teagasc Director

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