Concern is mounting over the lack of an out-of-hours GP centre in Listowel with Southdoc still operating from its nearest base in Tralee.
The Southdoc centre in Clieveragh was closed in the lock-down in March as a significant proportion of GPs in the North Kerry area are of an age category deemed vulnerable to COVID.
However, those North Kerry-based GPs still in a position to meet patients entered into an agreement with their Tralee colleagues to run the Listowel out-of-hours from the Tralee centre.
This remains the set-up as of present, but is raising fears among the public in Listowel of out-of-hours access – at a time when the town’s GPs are already pressed extremely hard by day with the rate of Covid in North Kerry riding at twice the national rate. 182 more cases of the disease were detected in the Listowel Municipal Area between October 13 and Monday, October 26 – a rate of infection of 634 per 100,000 of population. It’s one of the worst affected districts in the entire country, but with Kerry figures apparently in decline there is at least a sense in North Kerry of the tide turning – for now.
But the continuing lack of out-of-hours GP service in the town is leading to concern.
Sinn Féin Cllr Tom Barry said he is receiving calls on the matter on a daily basis and is now calling on the HSE and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to address the matter.
“It’s not just Listowel either, but it is the greater part of North Kerry that the centre serves and my worry now is that many are going to the A and E in the hospital to get treated, taking them longer to access care and placing greater demand on the hospital in the process.”
Killarney-based medical director of Southdoc Dr Gary Stack told The Kerryman that the service was being mounted effectively from the Tralee base at present and that it would likely be the case that the Listowel centre would remain closed for the forseeable future.
The issue remains one of public health for the doctors of North Kerry.
“Southdoc is still supplying a full service to all of Kerry and Cork, running currently at about 110 per cent of last year in terms of demand.
“A substantial proportion of the GPs in Listowel are of an age where they require protection from COVID and the only way we can do that is to pair them with doctors who are better able to see patients. This was done for safety reasons and it is a decision of the Listowel and Tralee doctors. The Listowel doctors are now working out of Tralee with the Tralee GPs, and they are doing it in an efficient and safer manner,” Dr Stack explained, adding it would like remain the situation for the ‘forseeable future’.