The negative impact of a lack of paediatric consultants in Irish hospitals on GP training places has been raised with Minister for Health Simon Harris, the Medical Independent (MI) has learned.
Minister Harris, it is understood, was briefed on the matter before the deadline passed for the allocation of 2019 GP training places.
Last year the ICGP offered candidates 194 GP training places, but this year the figure dropped to 192 places.
The College was forced to reduce the number of GP training places after the HSE was unable to confirm when full-time consultant paediatricians would be appointed at University Hospital Kerry.
This is despite a Government target of providing 240 GP training places annually in order to ensure the country maintains enough GPs into the future.
GP retirements are set to increase rapidly in the coming years, unions have warned. The IMO predicts that by 2025 there will be a shortage of over 2,000 GPs in Ireland.
Many patients have publicly raised concerns about difficulties securing a GP, while waiting times for appointments have increased, according to GPs.
The absence of full-time paediatricians in Irish hospitals has been blamed as the single biggest issue affecting efforts to boost GP training places.
Kerry GP Dr Eamonn Shanahan, ICGP Chair of Postgraduate Training, told MI that if a solution to the lack of paediatric consultants could not be found, the College would need to explore other ways to ensure trainees received adequate paediatric training.
“If trainees cannot get this experience in hospitals, how do we ensure they receive paediatric training? Are there other ways? We need to explore that.
“Looking to the next round in 2020, we need to find ways to overcome this roadblock.”