Rural general practice must become sustainable – RIDDI

By Niamh Quinlan - 05th Jul 2022 | 130 views

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The Rural, Island and Dispensing Doctors of Ireland (RIDDI) group has called on the Government to guarantee sustainability for rural general practice. 

Dr Jerry Cowley

This sustainability can be achieved by ensuring sufficient GPs are retained and supported in rural areas so that all vacant and locum-run rural and remote area GP panels are filled as a matter of urgency. 

Chair of the RIDDI Dr Jerry Cowley told the Medical Independent (MI) the group is also calling on the Government to replace solo practices in remote and rural areas with two-handed practices. 

A statement on the issue, which was put forward by the RIDDI, was passed on 20 June, the final day of the WONCA World Rural Health Conference 2022, held in the University of Limerick (UL). The statement was also endorsed by the ICGP, UL Medical School and the international WONCA advisory group. The RIDDI said it demands that the Department of Rural and Community Development and the HSE partner with the group in its efforts to obtain rural sustainability. 

“The Government needs to get outside the box about this and come up with solutions,” Dr Cowley told MI. “We have plenty of solutions for them with lots of novel suggestions including creating a resourced, virtual campus so that people could be supported.” This would counteract the growing problem of rural medical practitioner burnout. 

The RIDDI also called for the return of distance codes, removed in 2010, which provided a weighted capitation and out-of-hours fee based on the geographic distance a patient lived from the surgery. 

In a press statement, the RIDDI said their removal “has amounted to a massive disincentive to rural practice as a career choice for young medical practitioners”. 

Despite these issues, Dr Cowley hopes that attendees of the WONCA conference walked away with optimism for the future. 

Rural GP and Professor of General Practice at UL, Prof Liam Glynn, told this newspaper he also wanted attendees to leave the conference with hope for the future of rural practice. 

“Coming together and sharing ideas and working together, we really can come up with solutions to all of our problems. Not just the problems in this country,” he said. 

Prof Glynn also told MI he hopes delegates gained a sense of the importance of peer support. “Because it has been a really traumatic number of years… I hope there’s a sense of healing in coming together.” 

Along with ICGP Medical Director Dr Diarmuid Quinlan, Prof Glynn was the author of the ‘Limerick Declaration on Rural Healthcare’, which was endorsed by the World Rural Health Conference. 

In a press statement, Prof Glynn said the declaration “contains instructions on how to deliver timely equitable high-quality healthcare in rural areas and how to empower the residents of those communities to make it happen”. 

WONCA World Rural Health Conference, University of Limerick, 17-20 June 2022

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