A troubled Co Armagh GP practise is to close in less than a fortnight as the local health service is plunged into further crisis.
The Bannview practice in Portadown will cease to exist from Monday, January 16.
Despite efforts to keep the local facility afloat, staffing situations have become so bad that the powers-that-be have been left with no other option than to pull the plug.
Registered patients will now have to look elsewhere for their primary care – a situation which will only have a ripple effect and place added pressures on other GPs.
And they will not be accommodated within other GP practises at Portadown Health Centre.
Dr Margaret O’Brien, head of General Medical Services at the Director of Integrated Care, Health and Social Care Board, received confirmation of the bombshell in a letter which also went to local MLAs.
It has been signed by GPs within Portadown Health Centre.
It states: “Currently all practises in Portadown are operating with a list size in excess of 2,000 patients per full-time GP, which is the upper limit of quality and safety as advised by the BMA.
“Any additional workload will push all practises into an unsafe, unsustainable and potentially dangerous operating environment for GPs and patients.
“In the interest of sustaining quality and safety of care and medical services to our existing patients, all Portadown practises have applied for temporary list closure with immediate effect.
“In light of the above facts, the remaining GP practises will not be in a position to provide medical services to any Bannview patients on or after Monday, 16th January.”
Upper Bann Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said this evening their worst fears had been realised.
He told Armagh I : “The crisis facing General Practise (GP) in Northern Ireland’s health care has long been highlighted by medical professionals and politicians and yet short term measures have not been found to give time and space to find long term measures to address the issues.
“You may well think that the recent news that another GP practice in Portadown, the Bannview practice, was to about to close would have focused the minds in order to find a solution.
“Yet today I have learned that there is no solution to the problem and that the other practises in the Portadown Health Centre do not have the capacity to accept dispersal of the 5,000 patients from Bannview.
“All Portadown Health Centre practises have now applied for temporary list closure with immediate effect.
“As of the 16th January, 2017, Bannview practise patients, some of them extremely vulnerable, will have to find a GP elsewhere.
“This is totally unacceptable and is an indictment of the lack of vision within our executive who are now so busy in fighting that they have failed the people of Portadown by taking their eye of the ball.
“The Health Minister must take control of this issue and put in place short term measures to ensure the 5,000 individuals who had been registered to Bannview are not disadvantaged.
— Julie Flaherty (@flahertycom) January 3, 2017