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Doctors highlight ‘brain drain’

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GPs from all over the country gathered in Galway city last weekend – to lament the medical ‘brain drain’ caused by low pay and poor prospects for newly qualified members of their profession.

Over 300 medics attended the Irish College of General Practitioners annual three-day conference in the Radisson Hotel, where they highlighted the wave of young doctors who were emigrating in search of work.

And this – combined with the ageing population – was a particular cause for concern across the profession, according to one Galway GP in attendance.

Dr. Sinead Murphy of the Galway Bay Medical Centre spoke of the problems facing general practitioners in Ireland underlining her understanding of the issues at hand.

“It’s different in cities than it is rurally… We need more doctors to deliver the same amount of care than there would have been before…  In Galway city it’s a little bit different from everywhere else, as there are plenty of young GPs available who want to work.

“The problem is that we can’t afford to give them work; not enough, especially, practices that set up in recent years.”

Minister for Primary Care, Social Care and Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch, was also present at the event which gave GP’s a forum to discuss their concerns – not least the contract for the provision of free medical care for under sixes and the ageing GP population affecting rural Ireland.

But speaking to the Connacht Tribune, Dr. Murphy dispelled the myth that this was a manpower issue.

“It’s awful to hear people saying we have a manpower crisis and that we need to train more GPs, when it’s clearly not the issue at all.

“We’ve trained a huge number of excellent GP’s and what they [the Government] need to do is engage with those GP’s and see what kind of a job would they be interested in staying for and why don’t they just offer that?”

Dr. Murphy was also unequivocal on the issues affecting her colleagues working outside of cities in rural areas – describing it as ‘absolutely criminal’ that the rural practice allowance was taken away.

“I know a lot of colleagues of mine are struggling and I think that that is wrong. It’s a very different type of medicine when you’re in the middle of nowhere with none of the back-up that we would have here in the city,” she said.

Minister Lynch had previously stated that the allowance hasn’t been abolished, but reduced.

The Rural Practice Allowance is a scheme whereby GPs are eligible for an allowance if they live and practice in a rural area with a population of less than 500 and where there is not a town with a population of 1,500 people within a three mile radius of the practice in question.

The HSE also needs to feel that it is necessary to pay an allowance to retain a doctor/practice in the specific area.

So far the contract has not lived up to the expectations of GPs according to Dr. Murphy “look at the out of hours commitments and the obligations and responsibilities on the doctors and the lack of responsibilities on the HSE in that contract.

“It’s not in any way attractive to somebody who wants to set up a practice or take over a business on those terms.

“I hear it all the time from doctors who are working in rural areas, that they are completely swamped and cannot get a locum to work there at all.

“I suppose if the contract was better structured it would attract enough locums (another doctor to provide cover) to the areas where you cannot get enough locums and it would provide enough income for the practice to hire enough doctors to run the practice safely,” she said.

She also discussed the viability of some rural practices and the difficulties being faced in rural areas.

“Unlike the hospital setting where you have guaranteed income and security, and don’t need to pay for the overheads of running a practice, in this way practices are different. The idea of getting into a practice where the viability of it has disappeared in a lot of areas a long time ago, there is just nothing to attract people to it [rural practices] and this contract does nothing to reverse it.”

The contract in question is related to the provision of free medical care for children under six.

Last year the HSE issued this contract to all of the existing 2,400 GPs who held General Medical Services (GMS) contracts in Ireland, on top of this, it was also open to any qualified GP who did not hold a GMS contract to apply.

As GPs are effectively independent contractors it has been up to each doctor to individually decide whether they would in or opt out of this new arrangement.

A lot of the concerns raised by the GP’s in attendance were predominantly focused on the above contract.

“I’d be in favour of free GP care for people who need it and ultimately the whole country if we can do that properly, but it has to be done properly in a way that’ll work.

“The concern with the free GP care is that if you don’t do it properly the current very high standard of access is in jeopardy,” she said.

She felt the current draft of the contract, while an improvement from the first effort, was still too “HSE and Government-friendly and not GP or patient-friendly.”

Ultimately, Dr. Murphy feels that free health care for the whole population is something to strive for, as healthcare is a basic human right.

The imminent implementation of the free medical care for under sixes is slated for July and she feels it is very much a rushed timeline.

“While the government said that there will be free GP from July, that is unlikely to be the case, most of us want to do this, but we want to do it with the right back-up so more of us don’t end up going out of business… leaving people with any GP service.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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