Portlaoise GP Dr David Booth.
GPs in Laois take to the protest lines this week in an unpredented move caused by what, they say, is a crisis that is forcing patients waiting many months to get on to a list so they can be treated by a family doctor.
Senior partner at Portlaoise's Cedar Clinic, Dr David Booth is among those who will put down the stethoscope this Wednesday afternoon, January 6 and travel to protest outside Dáil Éireann.
He and up to 30 GPs feel they have no option left but to protest at what they see is a crisis which is hitting patients hard. While doctors are forced to curtail services for their patients, the worst problems are being felt by those who have moved to Portlaoise only to be told no doctor can see them.
“I saw a patient the other day who was waiting five months to see a GP in Portlaoise. All of the GP practices in Portlaoise have closed their (patients) lists. I would say 65% of practices around the country have closed their practices to new patients.
“If you move to Portlaoise you could be waiting six months to get a GP,” he said.
While waiting, patients have to go to hospital or Midoc. Dr Booth said some patients have to go to Dublin to see their old GP.
An added problem is that young doctors do not want to work in Portlaoise or other parts of Ireland.
“They are going working in Australia or Canada for better pay and conditions,” he said.
The Portlaoise doctor said patients pay the price of Government cuts and outdated practice. He said all politicians are aware of the problems because they hear them first hand from constituents.
Apart from people waiting to get onto a list, he said patients have to go on a waiting list to see a GP.
“You now are getting to a stage where there are waiting lists in General Practice and that is unprecedented,” he said.
The Portlaoise GP said doctors have warned all of these problems would arise.
“We have been warning about this for years and it has reached a point of crisis. General practice has been suffocated of resources for ten years,” he said.
Up to 30 Laois doctors have signed up to the protest which is being carried out as part of a National Association of Irish General Practitioners Action. Dr Booth expects about ten practices will close this Wednesday afternoon in nearly every town in Laois.
“The probability is that people will be directed to the emergency services and ambulances,” said Dr Booth.
MiDoc will operate as normal.
A letter from the National Association of General Practitioners signed by Dr Booth and hundreds of other GPs in Laois and around the country outlines the reason why action must be taken.
“We have not chosen this decision lightly but it is vital for us to make the Government and others fully aware that our health system is in crisis and has been so for years. This is despite that fact that we have one of the most expensive health systems in the world.
“Evidence from around the world confirms that community-based health systems, like the family doctor system, are the most efficient, safe and effective. “Years of successive cuts in Government funding for general practice have created an inefficient unstructured health system which is collapsing,” says the statement.
Read also: DOCTORS EXPLAIN REASONS FOR PROTEST