Directors of SouthDoc are meeting soon to plan for a reopening of the out-of-hours service base in Listowel.
hat’s according to HSE Chief Officer Michael Fitzgerald in a letter to elected representatives sent on Monday in which he set out the ‘numerous’ steps the HSE took to urge SouthDoc to reconsider its closure of Listowel.
It’s one of the main issues in the North Kerry town at present, with councillors saying patients are presenting at the A&E in University Hospital Kerry while the Clieveragh centre remains closed.
Public concern over the issue was exacerbated in January after a sudden U-turn by SouthDoc on a move to reopen Listowel on January 18.
Listowel and Blackpool are now the only two SouthDoc centres that remain closed. The North Kerry centre remains closed as a disproportionate number of the town’s GPs were deemed especially vulnerable to Covid-19 due to their age profile.
News that the directors of SouthDoc are to now meet to plan the Listowel reopening has been widely welcomed. Fine Gael councillor Mike Kennelly – who is the only local councillor to sit on the Regional Health Forum – said he caused ‘havoc’ on the matter in a meeting of the forum on Thursday last.
“Promising news for North Kerry re opening of SouthDoc Listowel…not there yet, but it’s promising.
“I caused havoc with the HSE last Thursday on this…I would like to thank the HSE in dragging SouthDoc to the table,” he stated.
Cllr Jimmy Moloney (FF) said the plan was welcome news, but would keep his powder dry just yet.
“It’s welcome news that a plan to restore services is being developed,” Cllr Moloney said, adding ‘I will reserve further judgement until the plan is published.’
HSE Chief Officer Michael Fitzgerald informed elected representatives in Cork and Kerry the Executive had sought assurances a number of times from the service after it moved to rescind its decision to reopen Listowel.
“Following ongoing communication, the HSE was advised by SouthDoc that following consideration of their position in relation to delivering services in the context of Covid activity that the Blackpool and Listowel centres would reopen by appointment from January 18th 2021,” he set out.
“The HSE was subsequently informed on January 15th 2021 that SouthDoc had changed its position and had decided not to resume service in these two centres in the context of the sharp increase in Covid numbers that were being experienced at that time.
“While SouthDoc’s position was appreciated in light of the changing pandemic situation, the HSE sought further information and assurance on the reinstatement of the services as well as the need for closer consultation on such decisions which it had not been party to.”
“While the HSE received a response from SouthDoc on the matter on February 2nd 2021, on consideration there was a need for further clarity.”
He said the HSE repeatedly urged SouthDoc for more information and assurances on the reopening: “The HSE advised SouthDoc on a number of occasions that further information and assurances were required on the matter.
“The HSE was advised yesterday, February 25th, that the Board of Directors of SouthDoc will meet shortly to plan the reopening of Blackpool and Listowel centres for scheduled appointments and that SouthDoc will revert after the Board meeting with an update, including the agreed reopening date.”
Mr Fitzgerald stated the HSE is now engaging with the out-of-hours service to develop what he termed a ‘pathway’ to ‘fully restore service in Blackpool and Listowel once public health conditions allow it to do so.’
“The HSE remains committed to ensuring that appropriate out-of-hours GP services are available to medical card holders.”