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Dr Cowley, a former independent TD, said this agenda was “to centralise everything” and put an end to the rural doctor, “which is ludicrous as there are people still living in rural Ireland”.
GPs are not being resourced to provide badly-needed chronic care in the community, thereby mounting pressure on hospitals, he added.
Dr Cowley was speaking to the Medical Independent (MI) ahead of the upcoming 31st Annual Conference of Rural, Island, and Dispensing Doctors in the Station House Hotel, Clifden, Co Galway (30 September-2 October).
The Mulranny GP, who founded the conference, said rural practice is “still in the doldrums” with little positive change over the past year.
“The people who have emigrated are still abroad. It is a very poor story even though there has been some extension of the rural practice allowance; it probably helped people who weren’t already getting it, but beyond that, it has been more of a gesture than anything else. It hasn’t meant anything whatsoever to established rural practitioners who are in jeopardy at the moment,” commented Dr Cowley.
Minister of State for Health Promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy is due to address the conference on 1 October at 2pm. The packed agenda includes updates on rural practice issues from the IMO and NAGP, while topical clinical sessions will be held on sports medicine, head and neck cancer, type 2 diabetes, and ophthalmology.
There will also be a panel discussion on separating the GP day job from out-of-hours work.
“That is a big priority, to try and do something about the red eye shift,” Dr Cowley told MI.
Some GPs are paying locums to do red-eye shifts “just so they can try and get a night’s sleep, before the onslaught the next day. It is hard and heavy now all the time, there is no let up at all”, he stated.
There will be extensive coverage of the conference in the next issue of MI, out 6 October.