There is an urgent need to resolves issues around Rural General Practice.
The current GP contract is over 40 years old and desperately requires updating. Negotiations have commenced between the Department of Health, HSE and the IMO with a view to formulating a new GP contract that will be modern and fit for purpose. The first module under discussion includes the issue of Rural GPs. I believe that special concessions for Rural GPs should be protected and reinstated in order to encourage GPs to serve in remote rural areas of low population.
To this end, I have engaged with rural GPs as I recognise that this is an issue that needs to be resolved and is a source of great anxiety for many rural constituents. Access to a doctor is a hugely important right and we must ensure that this remains the case by providing the necessary incentives to ensure that Rural Practices are viable.
Having met with and listened to rural GPs and constituents’ concerns in County Clare, I subsequently arranged for a network of Rural GPs from throughout Ireland to make a presentation to the Internal Fine Gael Health Committee . The purpose of this meeting was to gain support within the leading Party in Government to resolve this issue. The meeting was chaired by Wexford TD Liam Twomey, who is also a GP.
A number of Clare GPs attended this meeting at which it was agreed that my colleagues and I would support the campaign of Rural GPs to re-instate allowances such as distances codes and to deal with issues around the Rural Practice allowance.
Dr Liam Twomey TD has since engaged with the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD, on our committee’s behalf and I have also met with the Minister and impressed upon him the need to resolve this matter.
While negotiations are on-going, I am confident of a successful resolution. The Minister has informed me that he is keen to come to an agreement in relation to distance codes and modernising the rules for the Rural Practice Allowance, subject to an agreement and affordability.
Over the coming weeks, I will continue in my efforts to help in securing these essential supports for rural GPs. GPs play such an important roll in the fabric of rural towns and villages and I want to ensure that this remains the case .