Fine Gael Senator Aisling Dolan has called for an urgent expansion of the Westdoc GP service covering Ballinasloe and surrounding areas following a meeting with the South-East Galway GP network on Monday night.
The meeting, which took place at The Shearwater Hotel in Ballinasloe, was called by the network to address the expansion of services in Ballydangan, Taughmaconnell and surrounding areas.
Senator Dolan said local GPs were coming under increased pressure to provide night-time weekend call-outs alongside normal daytime services.
“Ten GPs came together in this meeting and spoke of their experiences, the workload, the burden and stress of working excessive hours. There is no EU Working Time Directive for GPs and yet this puts such a risk for patient safety,” she said.
“Westdoc provides an Out of Hours Urgent GP service from 6 pm to 9 am the following day as well as over weekends and Bank Holidays in the Galway, Roscommon and Mayo regions. It is part-funded by the HSE and there has been expansion, however not in the Ballinasloe-South-East Galway area or in the Moycullen area west of Galway city”.
The senator said the situation had reached “crisis level” and she called on the Minister for Health to prioritise the expansion of services in the area.
“Community Healthcare West have made submissions to the HSE for additional funding to expand the Westdoc Scheme, however no funding has been allocated. CHO2 representatives stated their support and noted the funding requests submitted over the past number of years and said the cost to fund an Out of Hours Service from midnight to 9 am in this region is roughly €500,000,” she said.
“These GPs are at the end of their tether, they cannot continue to work these types of hours which will put patients at risk as well as their own safety driving all hours of the night.
“The shocking part is that one GP has already left the Kilconnell area due to the incredible workload which makes it one of the worst regions in the country to be a GP. And it has been impossible to replace the position because of the difficult working conditions”.