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The new report “ICGP Vision for the Future of Rural General Practice” recommends a number of measures that should be taken, including financial incentives, infrastructural support, working hours and locum support, as well as GP involvement in community hospitals.
“In the last twenty years, Ireland has seen the emergence of an urban rural divide in many areas of life,” said Dr Margaret O’Riordan, Medical Director ICGP and author of the report.
“Running down of services from public transport to closure of post offices, shops, pubs and Garda stations has left many rural communities devoid of essential services as well as opportunities for social interaction.
“The expansion of this divide into healthcare, specifically rural general practice, is creating a systemic problem as large as the existing public private divide in terms of access to healthcare for rural populations.
“If measures are not introduced to support rural general practice, further inequality of access to healthcare amongst rural populations, which has never been a feature of health care provision in Ireland, will be created,”
The report offers a range of solutions to the Government following examination of international best practice solutions for improving recruitment and retention of general practitioners to rural areas.
“Having considered the current challenges facing rural practice and a range of interventions that have been proven internationally it is clear that a multifaceted approach is needed to address this issue in Irish General Practice,” said Dr O’Riordan.
“Financial incentives, like restoration of the Rural Practice Allowance and Distance Codes while essential will not work alone. It is clear from international experiences that one size does not fit all and that planning at a local and regional level will be needed to meet the needs of communities and patient services.”
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