Portadown Health Centre.
GPs from Dungannon and Cookstown are having to provide cover for their counterparts in Portadown due to a shortage of GPs in the Province and pressures related to Covid-19.
That's according to the Health and Social Care Board, which issued a statement to the Courier following our story last week in which we reported that doctors from Mid-Ulster Health Care - with over 15,000 patients in Dungannon and Cookstown Ð were covering for a practice in Portadown Health Centre - with six GP practices, 20 doctors and 5,000 patients.
It is understood the Portadown practice, Bannview Surgery, run by the Southern Health Trust, has been experiencing GP staffing difficulties for the past few years, which has led Mr Pat Brolly, of the Directorate of Integrated Care for the Health and Social Care Board, to step in and appeal for help from the Cookstown and Dungannon GPs.
For over a week GPs from Mid-Ulster Health Care have provided cover, but the fear is that too much pressure is being placed on Dungannon and Cookstown GPs for help in Portadown and they feel they have a big enough case load of their own.
Dr Terry Johnston, of Mid-Ulster told the Courier last week: “These medical services of County Tyrone have shown great collective spirit to support one another.
”It is disappointing that between the Southern Trust and the many very able GPs in Portadown Health Centre, that similar co-operation and common purpose could not be found.”
In a terse statement this week to the Courier, a spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board said: “In the face of unprecedented COVID-19 related pressures, GPs are continuing to support and care for patients across Northern Ireland. As independent contractors, GPs are responsible for identifying the number of clinical sessions that are required in order to provide GMS services for their patients, and this number will vary from time to time.
“There is an overall shortage of GPs across NI and intermittently areas of Northern Ireland will experience a shortage of GPs. This is more prevalent now with some GPs having to self-isolate, as a result of contracting coronavirus, or being a close contact of someone who has contracted the virus.
“The HSCB is working with all GP Practices in order to ensure that during these difficult times, GP services continue to be provided to patients.
“There are seven GP practices in Portadown Health Centre and at present, locum GPs are providing cover in a practice in Portadown, as they do in many practices.
“GPs, as independent contractors, are free to work in any practice, in any part of NI, on a locum basis.”
The HSCB explanation raises more questions than answers and will do little to alleviate what is a growing problem in Portadown Health Centre.