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Cummins raises lack of permanent GP in Lismore in Seanad Eireann

'Frozen list’ causing huge distress for patients requiring continuity of care


Waterford Fine Gael Senator John Cummins raised the lack of a permanent GP in Lismore, Co. Waterford during a commencement debate in Seanad Eireann this week. Lismore has been without a permanent GP since Dr. Barry finished up her position in September 2023.

 

Senator Cummins cited examples of distressed constituents who were in touch with him that had requested a transfer to a new practice which has opened in Tallow, only to be refused by the HSE. “To give you a flavour minister of the calls we’re receiving into our offices in Dungarvan and Waterford City. One lady which my staff spoke with last week was very upset. She explained that she has ongoing female health issues which requires continuity of care and she had actually stopped going to the GP to have her symptoms treated because she has had to continually explain her health problems from scratch with several locum male doctors over the past number of months”.

 

He also cited the example of another constituent being refused a transfer to the Tallow practice for their child despite living 7km from Tallow and 14km from Lismore asking “surely distance is a key determinant which can be factored into decision making on allowing patients to transfer or not? I want to know what criteria is being used, if any, to determine whether a patient can move from a ‘frozen list’?”

 

Responding, Minister for State at the Department of Health Mary Butler said “While the HSE may move a GMS patient from a frozen panel, each request is examined individually. Patients are only moved where there is extenuating circumstances, so you can apply to be removed from the frozen list. This helps ensure that the vacant panel does not diminish, remains viable and is still attractive to entice a new GP to apply to the position permanently. I do think its important to note that for those two cases you mentioned, they can apply to be removed from the frozen list and each case is looked at on a case by case basis”.

 

Senator Cummins followed up by saying he specifically picked those two cases because he believed there were extenuating circumstances but unfortunately, they had already been assessed by the HSE and refused. “If the ability to be able to access continuity of care with a female GP for female health issues or geography are not two of those criteria, well then, I don’t know what is an acceptable criteria so Minister I would ask that common sense is applied in these cases. We have submitted them to the HSE for reconsideration and I hope they can be relooked at as a priority”.

 

Minister Butler acknowledged the comments saying “I do agree that we have to have a common sense approach and people have to have choice and options also”.

 

It was confirmed that the Lismore GMS list consists of 861 patients and the permanent position will be readvertised again this month by the HSE. Commenting after the Seanad debate Senator Cummins said “While there is a full time GP service in place in Lismore, it is being staffed by various locum doctors which maybe suitable for general routine appointments. However, where someone requires continuity of care, it is simply not acceptable that patients are being refused transfers to an alternative GP practice. The position has been advertised on two separate occasions thus far, so I certainly hope that this time a permanent replacement can be found for Dr. Barry because the people of Lismore and surrounding areas need to have certainty on their medical care”.

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