An independent third-party mediator has been appointed to try to resolve the future of out-of-hours GP service in Donegal.
Joe McHugh, Fine Gael TD for Donegal North East and minister of state for the Gaeltacht, welcomed confirmation of the appointment, saying the mediator, “will be put in place without delay, so that this issue can be resolved”.
Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin TD, had earlier called on the chief executive of the Health Service Executive and the minister for health to seek the help of an independent arbitrator in resolving the current impasse among GP representatives, the HSE and Caredoc.
Caredoc now runs the out-of-hour GP service in the region.
In calling for the mediator, Deputy Doherty had said that Caredoc had stated its intention to withdraw from the current arrangement today, March 1st. The deputy said he had also been made aware that neither Caredoc nor the HSE had sat down in the same room to discuss the matter since November of last year, a situation he called, “simply unacceptable”.
Minister of State McHugh said patient care and safety was the most important concern and said a quick response must be initiated.
“This issue has been ongoing for some time, however, there is now a belief that all relevant parties can sit down together and discuss various options and solutions so that these concerns can be remedied in a favourable manner for all concerned,” the minister of state said.
Deputy Doherty said that Caredoc needs 227,000 euro per year to maintain what’s called the “red-eye service”, which provides GP care to Donegal people in the overnight hours. If the involved parties cannot come to an agreement, Deputy Doherty said, the central service that people now call for a GP will no longer be in operation.
“What we’re reverting back to is the system we had in the 1990s -- you will be phoning a GP in their home, you will be hoping that GP is there and you will be hoping that GP is available to treat you,” Deputy Doherty said. If the first GP contacted is not available, that would mean a call to the next GP on the list and possibly to the next.
“All those minutes can lose lives,” Deputy Doherty said.
Deputy Doherty said returning to those practices would also, “put huge pressure on already overburdened GPs, particularly those based in rural areas, to provide out-of-hour care.”
In calling for the appointment of a mediator, Deputy Doherty called it, “a crisis situation”. He welcomed the news that a mediator had been appointed.
“I welcome the fact that the request I’ve made has been agreed, and hopefully now, before Monday, an agreement can be reached that won’t see the collapse of the service,” Deputy Doherty said.
The out-of-hours service had been provided to people in Donegal by NowDoc. However, in 2013, the HSE received proposals from Caredoc and general practitioners in Donegal relating to the provision of the services in Donegal. Under the proposals, the Donegal GPs became members of Caredoc, which since then has provided administrative/management support and clinical governance to Donegal GPs.
The HSE issued a statement on Friday, below, on the Caredoc situation.