HEALTH campaigners on the Southside believe that arrangements the HSE has put in place for a planned out-of-hours GP service at Tallaght Hospital are inadequate.
Triona Murphy, chairperson of the Tallaght Hospital Action Group (THAG), revealed that the new service is to commence on November 1 following negotiations with doctors.
However, she claimed the opening hours and other arrangements would not meet the needs of local people who require round the clock GP cover.
The concerns follow new data released by the HSE which shows that the number of GPs per head of population in Tallaght is well below the national average.
Health campaigners say the lack of GP cover in the area means that large numbers of locals who cannot readily access a doctor are instead attending Tallaght Hospital.
As a result this is increasing pressure on the already overstretched emergency ward there.
Ms Murphy had been informed that the planned new out-of-hours GP service will operate Monday to Friday, from 6pm until 10pm. On Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays it will operate from 10am to 6pm.
However, she said local people needed an out-of-hours service that operated on a 24-hour-a-day, seven days a week basis.
“We feel that the hours being offered at the service are very poor because essentially there would be no established out-of-hours GP service during the night time,” she said.
“We believe that because of the lack of GP cover in the area, people often go to the A&E department because they have nowhere else to go. This is increasing pressure on the A&E at the hospital.”
Meanwhile, a local Socialist Party activist in the Tallaght area, Mick Murphy, said figures released recently by the HSE show that there are only 24 registered GPs in the Tallaght area, which has a population of 71,000.
This amounted to a ratio of one GP for every 2,958 people, which was far below the national average of one for every 1,672 people.
In addition, he said a door-to-door survey carried out by the Socialist Party in Tallaght recently found that 39 per cent of people in the area stated they would prefer to go straight to the A&E in Tallaght Hospital in an out-of-hours situation.
He said the survey found that only 31 per cent of people would use call out GP services, as most doctors in Tallaght did not have the time to provide an out-of-hours service themselves.
“Lack of access to GP services in the catchment area of Tallaght Hospital is clearly adding to the pressures in the A&E and the hospital itself,” he said. “We feel that because the HSE is responsible for health services in general, they should be responsible for providing adequate GP cover in the area as well.”
A spokeswoman for the HSE said: “All suitably qualified doctors will be eligible to apply for the GP contract which is currently under review. The primary care unit in Nangor Road will accept applications at any time.”