General practitioner services have been under severe pressure since the pandemic resulting in longer appointment waiting times and leaving many struggling to find a GP in their area.
Around 70% of practices outside of Dublin are closed to new patients due to workload issues. Some clinics are accepting new patients but refusing to take those with GP visit cards or medical cards.
This has led to children presenting to health services without proper vaccinations, as well as women attending antenatal care with no registered GP.
For those who have access to a GP, most face “high out-of-pocket payments”, according to an ESRI report, which stated this is “an unusual feature of Irish healthcare”.
People who are homeless, migrants, undocumented and other vulnerable groups often face additional barriers. Undocumented workers, for example, are often afraid to contact a GP because of their immigration status, according to the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, though during the pandemic assurance was given that health and justice services would not share information.
Almost 40% of the Roma community in Ireland do not have a GP due to barriers such as having no income or medical card. Living in overcrowded accommodation with no tenancy agreement is also an issue as people have difficulty proving where they live for health-related social welfare services.
Though Travellers often have access to GPs, outcomes are extremely poor with a higher rate of death for cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular disease which representative groups say is a strong indication of institutional racism and discrimination at policy and service levels.
HELP US INVESTIGATE
With an aging population of GPs, and hundreds due to retire in the next five years, we want to investigate what is being done to address the shortage of GP services, particularly in rural areas.
We want to speak to people from areas where new patients are not being accepted by GPs or there is no GP service to find out the impact on people’s lives and health.
We want to examine actions being taken to address GP access for vulnerable groups and if changes made to improve certain services during Covid-19 will continue once the crisis is over.
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