'Difficult enough to get a GP in Cookstown at times'
Concerns have been raised about GPs from Cookstown and Dungannon being asked to cover for a Portadown surgery.
Doctors from the Mid Ulster Health Care are understood to have provided cover last Friday and have been asked to do so again this Friday.
It is understood the Portadown surgery, The Bannview Medical Practice, has been experiencing GP staffing difficulties in recent years with vacancies filled by locums.
The issue was raised by SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly at a meeting with the Southern Trust Chief Executive, Shane Devlin.
Her party colleague and Mid Ulster MLA, Patsy McGlone, told the Mail on Tuesday that people in Cookstown find it difficult enough to get a GP at times, especially in the current climate brought about by Covid-19.
He described the current situation as like “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
“The surgery in Portadown needs to be adequately re sourced and have staff to cover it,” he stressed. “This needs to be done urgently.”
Dolores Kelly MLA for Upper Bann said: “I have been contacted by constituents who are worried and angry that they have been left without a permanent GP for months now and feel let down.
“We all know the important relationship between a GP and their patients often forged through many years of service, people rely on their GP as the doctor who knows them best and as someone who will advocate for them when they need other treatments within the NHS.
“I was reassured to learn that negotiations are ongoing with an interested party and hope that a permanent solution will soon be found.
“In the meantime measures have been put in place to ensure the practice is covered. I will be watching the situation closely and also raising the continuing shortage with the Health Minster Robin Swann.
Mrs Kelly added: “The British Medical Association warned in a report in 2015/2016 that there was a developing crisis in the provision of GP services so the department has had ample time to address this worrying trend. I will be interested to hear what remedies they have put in place since then.”
A spokesperson for HSCB said: “In the face of unprecedented COVID-19 related pressures, GP’s are continuing to support and care for patients across Northern Ireland.
“There is an overall shortage of GP’s across NI and intermittently areas of Northern Ireland will experience a shortage of GP’s. This is more prevalent now with some GP’s having to self-isolate, as a result of contracting coronavirus, or being a close contact of someone who has contracted the virus.
“The HSCB is working with all GP Practices in order to ensure that during these difficult times, GP services continue to be provided to all patients.”
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