Fórsa raises concerns over cuts to primary care in West

Union blasts cuts to primary care services in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, highlights loss of health professional posts and heavy restrictions on occupational therapy services

Fórsa  has said it’s extremely concerned about reports of severe cuts to primary care services in the HSE’s Western region. Fórsa official Pádraig Mulligan raised his concerns over reports of numerous unfilled primary care posts with the HSE’s head of primary care services in the West.

Pádraig highlighted cuts to occupational therapy in the region, the ‘culling’ of 63 posts in primary care and reports that vacancies arising from absences due to retirements and maternity leave will not be filled. He said any posts that became vacant in 2019 are not being filled.

“I believe this represents is a decimation of primary care services throughout the West. It would appear that your geographical location is about to dictate whether or not you receive a primary care service from the HSE.

“The upshot is that more patients end up in hospital for longer because they cannot be discharged or fully avail of occupational therapy or palliative services in their home. This puts greater pressure on the hospital system, and undermines the objectives of primary care in the community,” he said.

We cannot accept that primary healthcare delivery is reduced to the status of a lottery based on geographical location.

He explained that 11 occupational therapists have already been let go: “These were a group of OTs dealing specifically with significant waiting lists in the West. The clerical officer who provided support to them was also let go.

“Elsewhere in the region, the loss of clerical posts means at least one day a week is now being spent by health and social care professionals (HSCPs) on clerical work, further reducing capacity.

“Individual cases are categorised 1, 2 and 3 in order of severity. In Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, service is only provided in cases identified as ‘Priority 1’. In order to cover these cases, the small number of practitioners left are spending more hours travelling between clients. They’re seeing significantly fewer people as a direct result,” he said.

Pádraig cited examples of occupational therapists (OTs) having to cover client visits between Mountbellew and parts of Connemara, distances of around – or exceeding – 100km. “I have now been informed by our HSCP managers that the situation has gotten so bad, that closure notices are now being prepared for certain services.

“This is just a flavour of the significant challenges arising in the West. We cannot accept that primary healthcare delivery is reduced to the status of a lottery based on geographical location.

“If these cuts proceed they will decimate services in the region, and would be the biggest cuts to health services here in my 20 years’ experience as a trade union official in the sector,” he said.

Fórsa is to meet the HSE to discuss the issue later today (Tuesday).