HSE confirms out-of-hours GP cover to January 15

Out-of-hours GP service cover has been confirmed for Westmeath up to January 15.

In the wake of the announcement by Midoc that it was ceasing cover from December 31 last, the HSE has confirmed that it has engaged a third party agency to provide cover until January 15, 2023, while it confirms an alternative provider.

The third party agency was already providing support to MIDOC and the HSE says it will "provide appropriate cover until January 15, based on normal and scheduled GP out-of-hours practice (GPOOH) and rosters".

MIDOC was provider of an urgent GP service to patients in counties Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath.

HSE Midlands Louth Meath Community Healthcare says it had been engaging with MIDOC GPOOH for a number of months to help address the financial challenges it faced.

In a statement last week, the HSE said it was disappointed that MIDOC had decided to cease trading for an indefinite period, effective midnight 31 December 2022, “when we were looking to provide to provide a sustainable model going forward".

"In the short-term and to mitigate the risks, through a third party the HSE has put in place appropriate cover based on normal and scheduled GPOOH practice and rosters and to ensure that the necessary supports are in place to deliver the best care to our service users, while ensuring that patient safety and quality of service are at the forefront of service delivery.

"In addition the HSE is in the process of seeking an alternative provider which we hope to have in place in the coming month. The HSE will continue to communicate and engage with all relevant stakeholders to ensure they are fully appraised of and consulted on any future developments.

"This means that as of 1 January 2023, patients call the same number and attend whichever of the existing treatment centres they are directed to attend, if required. The HSE will provide ongoing updates as we support the GPs and members of the public due to the untimely departure of MIDOC GP CLG."

Deputy Robert Troy confirmed that he has received assurances from senior figures in the HSE that the future of the service is not under threat. He said that last week he had received a "clarification that this vital service will continue and there is no fear of it being discontinued into the future".

In a letter to members seen by the Westmeath Examiner, MIDOC said it and its "previous incarnations have struggled financially for many years due to insufficient funding" and that "for reasons unknown" the HSE reduced its funding in 2022. "Given that only 10 per cent of MIDOC’s funding requirement is delivered from non-HSE sources and to avoid trading in an insolvent or reckless manner, the board of directors of MIDOC GP CLG have made the unanimous decision to cease trading effective from 31 December 2022."

MIDOC GP CLG also stated that while it would cease trading, it remains available to meet the HSE "should they wish to discuss the implementation of an alternative, financially sustainable out of hours model".

The MIDOC service in Athlone is unaffected by the HSE announcement as it is self managed by GPs in the wider Athlone area - and is separate from the MIDOC GP CLG service in the rest of the midlands.