At least 23 GMS GP positions were vacant nationally at the beginning of the year, with seven described by the HSE as “difficult recruitment situations”, the Medical Independent (MI) reports.
Of the 23, four were in rural areas and 19 in urban areas. Five became vacant in the last three months of 2016, stated the HSE.
“The number of difficult recruitment situations is approximately seven, most of which are in disadvantaged urban areas or remote rural areas where the absence of amenities and private practice opportunities make it difficult to attract GPs,” according to a HSE spokesperson.
While nine vacancies were in Dublin, four occurred in Louth and Meath and three in Galway. There were two vacancies in Cavan and Monaghan and one in each of the following areas: Mayo, North Tipperary/East Limerick, Kerry, South Tipperary and Laois/Offaly.
In addition to the 23 vacancies, another is understood to have occurred in January in the Waterville/Cahirciveen area of Co Kerry, with the retirement of two GPs.
Furthermore, the HSE has been unable to secure a full-time GP service in Rathmore, Co Kerry, for over two years.
“All vacancies are currently covered by a locum GP, therefore a GP service continues to be provided in all of the affected areas,” said the HSE’s spokesperson.
According to Co Kerry GP Dr Eamonn Shanahan, 18 GPs are due to retire in HSE South this year.
However, the Executive said a review of retirement details for GMS GPs in HSE South found that two would reach the mandatory retirement age of 72 this year.
“Having reviewed the retirement details nationally, there are currently 25 GMS GPs who will reach the mandatory retirement age during 2017,” the spokesperson said.
The HSE is also in the process of collating data on the number of GPs who have indicated their intention to resign from the GMS for reasons other than reaching mandatory retirement age.