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Holly Cairns says HSE is ‘gaslighting’ public over availability of SouthDoc service

May 7th, 2024 10:14 AM

By Southern Star Team

Social Democrat party leader Holly Cairns is asking questions at national level about the SouthDoc service. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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THERE are claims that the SouthDoc out-of-hours doctor services in Clonakilty have experienced a reduction in hours recently, according to Isobel Towse, the Social Democrats candidate for the Skibbereen area. And her party leader said this week that the HSE was ‘gaslighting’ the public about the service.

Her claims follow a report in The Southern Star in recent weeks, regarding constraints on the Skibbereen town service, with many callers to the service being told they have to go to Bantry instead.

‘The Primary Care Centre in Clonakilty was opened nearly a year ago, but Southdoc, one of its main services, is barely staffed,’ said Ms Towse. ‘I was informed by a HSE staff member and a local pharmacist this week that the clinic has reduced its hours significantly.’

Skibbereen candidate Isobel Towse, above, says the Clonakilty service is on reduced hours.


Ms Towse pointed out that SouthDoc in Clonakilty used to be open until 10pm. ‘I’ve been told that recently it is now closing at 9pm on weekdays and at 6pm on weekends. That doesn’t sound like an out-of-hours service to me. Combined with a reduction in services in Skibbereen, this is leaving patients vulnerable,’ she said.

‘Residents in Skibbereen, Clonakilty and surrounding villages who need urgent care are being redirected to another town in the middle of the night, sometimes with babies or elderly family members who find traveling uncomfortable. The HSE’s continued denial that there has been a reduction in service just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,’ she added.

Her party leader, Holly Cairns, who is also a TD for Cork South West, said this week that the HSE needs to ‘come clean’ about the reality of SouthDoc services in West Cork. ‘They cannot continue to gaslight communities and insist care is available when every week people continue to be diverted from the clinics in Skibbereen and Clonakilty,’ she said. ‘Transparency is the very least we should expect from the HSE.’

Ms Cairns said she was following up with the HSE and the Minister to clarify what SouthDoc care is being provided, and when, and why, services were reduced.

A statement from the HSE did not address the issue of the hours of service, but a spokesperson said:

‘The HSE has a service level agreement with SouthDoc for the provision of out-of-hours cover for medical card holders. We work closely with SouthDoc, and the co-operative continually evaluates how it provides services so that it can provide the best possible service across the region.

‘We are assured from our engagement with SouthDoc that it is committed to the long-term continuation of services in Clonakilty. There is no reduction in service to patients in the Clonakilty area, and the SouthDoc treatment centre facility in Clonakilty remains available (by appointment only, as is standard across SouthDoc treatment centres). It is important to note that SouthDoc centres do not operate on a ‘walk-in’ basis.

‘If any patient in Clonakilty requires care from SouthDoc, that care may be provided by one of the following, depending on the clinical condition of the patient: an appointment in either the Clonakilty, Skibbereen or Bantry Treatment Centre; a home visit.

‘The SouthDoc out-of-hours service remains available to the patients and full access to the services provided by them (sic). The SouthDoc treatment centre facility in Clonakilty will continue to be by appointment only.

‘Any patients that may require a home visit due to their clinical condition will be treated accordingly.

‘SouthDoc continuously reviews the allocation of doctors, both member GPs and locum doctors to ensure the most effective allocation of their clinical skills and expertise to ensure the safest and most effective service.

‘It also continues to deliver the service in response to the patient needs, assuring safety, ease, and equity of access. All patients are dealt with in accordance with their clinical needs.’

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