THE general manager of Shannondoc – the out-of-hours medical care provider - says there is no threat to the clinic in Hospital or indeed “any clinic at all within Shannondoc”.
However, Michael Finucane did confirm that they are experiencing “a huge GP shortage at the moment”.
“We just can’t get locums,” said Mr Finucane when contacted by the Limerick Leader this week after concerns were raised locally about cuts to services.
While normally at the weekend, there would be a doctor on site in both the Hospital centre and the centre in Limerick city, as a result of the locum shortage, last weekend a doctor moved between the two centres.“Normally at the weekends we would have a doctor in both locations but Sunday nights are extremely quiet - especially at this time of the year. Given the locum shortage, we just shared the resources between both sites - it’s not out of the norm at all. We just did what we do during the middle of the week - move a doctor between two centres,” said Mr Finucane.
Mr Finucane said that this situation has happened twice over the summer. “What we are experiencing is a huge GP shortage at the moment - we just can’t get locums. It’s just at this time of the year, during Ramadan, we all go through a tightening of the availability of the locums. An awful lot of the locum doctors go home and travel. It’s very normal, seasonal stuff and at this time of year our call volumes are way down. It has happened other years as well - it is not out of the norm.”
“But we are still providing the same out-of-hours service. A person in Hospital would have been serviced in Hospital, out of Limerick city,” he explained.
“They [GPs] will travel between both centres - they will travel out to Hospital and will remain in Hospital until the next call and then they will travel back out.”
Mr Finucane said he wanted to reassure the public that the service is “completely safe for the patient”.
“During the red eye - after 11pm - which is what this would have been we have a very low volume of patients so a doctor might see four, five or six patients in the course of the whole night. The service is completely safe for the patient.”
If there was an emergency in both Limerick city and Hospital, the Hospital case, he said, would take priority “because Limerick city is serviced by the emergency services - but we are not the emergency services either per se. For emergency services you ring the ambulance services.”
Shannondoc was created in 2002 to provide an improved medical service to patients within the Mid-West region. The central call centre is located at St Camillus’ Hospital in Limerick city and handles over 110,000 medical cases each year.