An Armagh woman has expressed her shock and disbelief after calling the local GP out-of-hours at the weekend to be told no doctor was available.
The woman, who did not wish to be named, contacted Armagh I to highlight the situation and question how this could have been allowed to happen.
The Southern Health Trust, meanwhile, has confirmed it was “not able to provide full GP cover” at the weekend.
The woman who contacted Armagh I said she had need to speak to seek medical attention at the weekend and described her experience.
“I phoned to speak to a doctor [on Saturday] as it couldn’t wait until Monday and there was a message saying basically they can only deal with nursing home, palliative care and a couple of other very specific things mostly related to the elderly.
“I wondered if it was a leftover from earlier in the pandemic so held on to speak to someone and was told they couldn’t help anyone that wasn’t in these very specific groups.
“This effectively leaves the Armagh area without an out-of-hours service for urgent care for children or adults.
“They’re obviously not publicising this and you’d only find out when you needed to use it.
“It must also be contributing to people going to A&E with things that could be easily sorted if they were able to speak to a doctor.
“I know the staff are working incredibly hard at the moment so I didn’t want to give them a hard time but I think it’s a scandal that the Trust are able to – or having to – do this and it’s not clear how long this has been going on or how long it will continue.
“At least if people know about it they can try and plan accordingly, where possible.”
The Southern Trust has responded to the concerns raised and admitted there was a shortage.
A spokesperson told Armagh I : “The out-of-hours service is for people with serious and urgent medical conditions that cannot wait until GP surgeries reopen.
“Unfortunately due to significant workforce challenges, we were not able to provide full GP cover in our out-of-hours service over the recent weekend.
“Some patients with urgent medical conditions were still able to access services whilst others were advised to attend the Emergency Department.
“We apologise for this disruption in service.”
Sign up for our weekly newsletter here.