Donegal County Councillors have demanded that the HSE clarifies the future of NowDoc services in the county amid concerns that the service will be downgraded in Mountcharles, Derrybeg and Carndonagh and centralised to Letterkenny.
Councillors yesterday called for a special meeting with HSE management to clarify plans for the future of the service.
Proposals to move receptionists from outlying centres to Ballybofey are before the Labour Relations Commission following opposition from unions.
The HSE said it was not received any proposals from GPs. One proposal that is understood to be under consideration by GPs would see the outlying centres closed from midnight to 8am with calls taken in Letterkenny and one vehicle based there to cover the whole county. It has also been suggested that the cuts to the service are linked to the withdrawal of HSE grant funding to GPs which allowed them to employ locums to cover the midnight to 8am period.
The small number of calls being received by outlying centres between midnight and 8am is also believed to be a factor in proposing changes to the service.
The call for the meeting with the HSE came during an emergency motion at yesterday’s meeting of the county council.
Independent councillor John Campbell, who tabled the motion, called on people who use the services to contact their GPs and make known their opposition to any cuts. He called on the HSE to make a clear statement of their intent on the issue.
Cllr. Campbell said GPs are split over the issue and quite a number of them are against the reduction of services.
Councillors expressed concern that any reduction in such a vital service would put patients at risk.
A meeting was held between representatives and HSE management on Friday when clarification was sought on the situation.
Cllr. Ciaran Brogan, who attended the meeting, said the HSE is amalgamating administration staff and drivers in the county but that there are no changes planned to any of the NowDoc vehicles. Cllr. Liam Blaney said the issue was over the withdrawal of the HSE grant to GPs which allowed them to employ locums.
The motion calling for the HSE to make its position clear on the issue was unanimously backed by the council and the HSE will now be invited to a special meeting to discuss the concerns.
Cllr. Marie Therese Gallagher said all councillors had been contacted by staff and members of the public who are weary of the proposed cuts.
“We are not just talking about someone with a broken leg or a sore head, we are talking about life and death. As representatives in this county we need to stand up and be counted and say we are not accepting it. Its is life and death and we are not going to accept it. A cut that is the difference between life and death is a cut that is not acceptable.”
Cllr. Patrick Doherty said the project is very important rural areas and it provides an excellent service.
“We need to contact the doctors to let them know that we are not going to be without that service.”
Cllr. Gerry Crawford said the service deals with real emergencies in families and private households that are very real. “The rotation of the NowDoc cars is vital to the provision of the service. Weed to put an end to the speculation and the rumour.
Cllr. Mick Quinn said the issue is one of major concern for the majority of people in the county. “We have a right to demand that the HSE comes forward and meet ourselves and advise us of what plans they are considering and advice us. It is important that this meeting be held in a public forum because where there is doubt and where there is fear, that adds to the problem.”
Cllr. Alcorn said it would be very important for the council to know exactly what the situation is.
“The health of the people of Donegal should be a priority above everything else.”
Deputy Mayor Barry O’Neill said Nowoc encourages GPd to engage with the HSE and said he would bring the issue to the Minister of Health. “I think it needs to be solved at local level between the GPs and the HSE. We need to ensure it is maintained.”
Cllr. Brendan Byrne said the service has gradually deteriorated over theyears. “There are serious flaws there and there have been system failures. They have failed to reach the service indicators set out.
What we are seeing today is that they have lost contact with the people that they serve.”
Cllr. Seamus Ó Domhnaill said people just don’t get sick during working hours. “I know there are financial constraints affecting the service but have to ensure those services are kept. A financial decision should not be taken over people’s health and we have to ensure that the service is retained and strengthened.”
Cllr. Michael McBride said NowDoc is a very important service in Donegal. “I hope the service will continue and it must be functional. I would be very concerned about services being removed.”
Cllr. Frank McBrearty Jnr said the Oireachtas members from the county should demand a meeting with the minister of health.
Cllr. Jack Murray said the HSE needs to be asked what their plans are for the service.
Cllr. Cora Harvey said she was glad the issue has been highlighted to the level that it has been.
Cllr. Patrick McGowan said Nowdoc should be providing more services.