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Warnings about increased GP retirements

Greater numbers of GPs will retire from practice due to concerns about contracting the novel coronavirus, GPs have warned.

Research shows people aged over 70 who develop Covid-19 have an increased risk of serious illness and death.

Retired Mayo GP Dr Ken Egan told the Medical Independent three GPs have told him they plan to retire early because they are over 60 and “feel more exposed because of Covid”.

In many group practices, older GPs are not currently seeing patients due to fears of catching the virus.

Furthermore, Dr Egan said pension funds would be hit hard because of the impact of the pandemic on the economy.

Along with the health considerations, this would act as a “double whammy” and accelerate retirements, he noted.

According to the ICGP, almost 700 GPs are over 60 and will retire in the next four years. The College has warned that “innovative ways must be resourced to attract GPs to replace those approaching retirement”.

The HSE has predicted a shortage of 2,000 GPs by 2025. In 2016, almost 17 per cent of GPs were aged 60 and over, while 27 per cent were aged between 50 and 59, according to a GP survey.

Monaghan GP Dr Illona Duffy said “the problem at our practice is that there are two doctors who can’t see patients now because of their age”.

Income from private patients has dropped across GP practices due to the pandemic. Dr Duffy believed this income would remain low for some time.

“I think GPs will retire because of Covid,” she added, noting that the virus would be the “final straw” for some GPs already considering retirement.

Cork-based GP Dr Diarmuid Quinlan said that if he was over 65, he would “definitely be considering retirement because of the pandemic”.

Dr Quinlan believes retirements will have huge impact on patients and general practice, due to the workload undertaken by senior GPs and the fact that many are single-handed.

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