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East Galway GP Dr Annraoi Finnegan proposed the motion, saying that the profession faced a “huge task to try and make general practice attractive to our best and brightest”.
“We have excellent training schemes, we have excellent graduates coming through the schemes,” he said. However, all GPs knew of young trainees emigrating to countries where terms and conditions appeared to be better, he added.
“It is a problem for trade unions and even meetings like this, where we could complain all day about how bad things are. The impression that we give to young graduates is ‘this is not an area that I wish to get involved in’.”
Cork City GP Dr Daniel Hinds stressed that current trainees are “absolutely super”, but he warned that standards in training needed to be protected. “It took a long time for our peers to recognise our specialty and the last thing we need to do is dumb it down. We’re not the dumping ground for every other specialty.”
Mayo GP Dr Pat Durcan said it was unprecedented that 10 GP training places were unfilled for this year’s intake. He warned that young doctors were telling the Government and the profession that they did not wish to go into general practice.
“It’s incredibly sad. It is up to us somehow, maybe through a new contract, to change [the situation],” he said. “They don’t want to eat at our table and if they don’t want to eat at our table, we can talk about a future where we don’t have GPs — we will have nurse practitioners.”
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Dr Durcan, Assistant Programme Director with the Western Training Scheme in General Practice, said there were training vacancies in Galway, Kerry and Limerick. However, he said places in Dublin and its surrounding counties were filled.
The Medical Independent (MI) understands that only 176 trainees are confirmed to start in July.
“You could deduce that the standard has gone down by virtue of the fact that in the past, all the places were all filled, whereas now there are 10 places that remain unfilled,” said Dr Durcan, when asked of concerns about standards.
Approximately 200 people were interviewed for places, “so there is a discrepancy between the amount of places available and the places that have been filled. That is the first time that has happened.
“It would appear that the cohort of people who are about to come onto GP training schemes are looking at the training schemes in Ireland and are deciding that they don’t want to train to be a GP in Ireland.”
Meanwhile, speaking on the issue to MI, Monaghan GP Dr Illona Duffy said: “We’ve talked about this for years — the crisis that has been coming is finally here. We can’t fill the training places. We’re finding lists closing, GPs not being replaced… There isn’t one open list in the town of Monaghan; there are waiting lists to join practices, which has never been the case before. It is a true sign that we are in crisis now. There is no point talking about new contracts until we have GPs wanting to work in general practice and able to take on new work.
Dr Illona Duffy
“Salaried GPs are not the answer and the Minister himself has acknowledged that we need to look at some reversal of the FEMPI cuts because we have to re-resource general practice to make it viable and to be able to take on the workload.”
Additional reporting by Priscilla Lynch