CONFINE SouthDoc to urgent cases or watch it collapse, Youghal Doctor Declan Mathews has warned in the midst of an ongoing crisis for GP cover in the out-of-hours service.
The warning comes after a number of ‘SOS messages’ were sent to doctors over the weekend looking for cover for the southside base across a number of shifts.
Dr Mathews said it is not uncommon to have people coming into SouthDoc complaining about a cough they have had for three weeks or because they couldn’t get an appointment with their GP during the day.
“There is no doubt that SouthDoc is being used for routine stuff,” Dr Mathews said.
“That is the problem, it is the mundane stuff coming through that is clogging the system.”
The Youghal doctor, who works at the Midleton SouthDoc base which serves the East Cork area including Youghal and Cobh, said there are not many crisis cases coming through the system, it is ordinary everyday stuff.
Dr Mathews also highlighted the fact that the two doctors working in the SouthDoc centre are there after a full days work and go at it “hammer and tongs” due to the long list of patients that present to the clinic.
Addressing the work carried out by the nurses that take the calls from patients calling SouthDoc and direct them to their nearest centre if they need to be seen, Dr Mathews said it is not their fault.
“They have a tough job carrying out telephone triage and if it was up to me, it is always a lot easier to see a patient than to diagnose them over the phone. I wouldn’t like to be doing what they are doing.”
Despite this, Dr Mathews said there are some “silly stuff” being sent through to the clinics.
Cork doctor Nick Flynn agreed that there is a frivolous use of the out of hours medical service but said it was one of many issues.
“Demand is increasing and there is only so much the 2.500-3,000 GPs can get through.
“The free Under Six care has seen children being brought to the doctor six times a year as opposed to twice a year which it used to be.”
Dr Flynn said people need to get on board with a team attitude in terms of healthcare and understand that there is currently a limited capacity for unlimited demand.
“Healthcare doesn’t work like that. SouthDoc has become an overflow service and the general public need to think before they use the service. Obviously, if in doubt, make the call, but lots of people use it simply because they don’t want to take time off work and get a Monday appointment which is not really what it is meant for.”