The parish priest of Borris-in-Ossory has made a plea during Sunday Mass for a replacement doctor for the village.
Fr Jackie Robinson asked his parishioners to lobby politicians to put pressure on the HSE, during his homily on Sunday February 22.
The current GP, Dr Seamus FitzGerald, was due to retire last November, but has not done so because his replacement has not been found.
Fr Robinson fears that if no-one takes up the post, the Health Centre could be closed.
“There is a big chance will will also lose the health centre, and that is used every single day by Borris in Ossory and the surrounding area. There’s a rumour that it would be moved to Rathdowney. That is 15 or twenty minutes away, and it would increase the waiting list there. The whole thing doesn’t make sense,” he said.
He believes it is down to a new reduced package the HSE are now offering GPs.
“Doctors are down by a good few thousand. That’s why they are finding it difficult to find a replacement. This is going on for several months. They need to change their package. I am hearing that other doctors are moving out as well, because the financial situation is not good enough,” he said.
He wants Laois politicians to talk to the HSE.
“I asked my parishioners to get in touch with councillors and TDs and see if they can try to get the HSE to change their package,” Fr Robinson said.
In the Dáil on February 26, TD Sean Fleming told Health Minister Leo Varadkar that people in Borris-in-Ossory are afraid they will have no doctor.
“A rural practice allowance of €16,000 has been a standard feature in small health centres to cover running costs. For no good reason the HSE failed to make this available,” he said, adding that the Minister’s reaction was “indifferent”.
He now understands that the HSE may actually charge €20,000 rent per year.
“Is the HSE gone mad? No wonder we have a mess in the health service if this is how they do their business. The HSE needs an injection of common sense,” said Dep Fleming.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan also spoke with Minister Varadkar.
“I understand that the interview process for a new GP for the area is due to take place this week. I would be anxious that any contractual issues acting as a barrier to the appointment of a GP would be resolved. It is essential that the people of Borris in Ossory and the surrounding areas continue to have access to a full GP service,” he said.
TD Brian Stanley said two doctors turned down the post.
“To make this practice sustainable I have requested that the HSE designate the Borris-in-Ossory practice for the Rural Practice Allowance to get a replacement GP. It covers a wide area; Ballaghmore, Skirke, Aghaboe, Ballybrophy and Coolrain. It is essential. Rural communities have suffered enough,” he said.
Laois County Councillors also intend to ask the HSE to amend their GP package.