And the move – which comes two months after the potential for closure was being cited – has been welcomed.
As we had reported in April, there was expected to be no GP in the Maphoner surgery come the end of June, leaving more than 5,000 patients in the wider Mullaghbawn area without a registered doctor.
Several proposals had been placed on the table, one of which included getting an arrangement in place with a new doctor – a managing partner – to oversee the running.
Now a way forward has been found.
The Department of Health has confirmed that a new “temporary contractor” has been appointed to manage GP services to the patients of Maphoner Surgery.
The Southern Trust has been asked by the Department of Health to temporarily take over the management following the retirement of the current GP.
From Saturday, July 1, the Trust will support all current General Medical services in the practice.
All 5,300 patients of Maphoner Surgery will continue to be registered with the practice. Letters will be issued to all patients later this week and they should continue to contact the practice in the usual way.
The Department of Health says it will continue to work to secure a permanent GP contractor for the practice over the coming months.
Newry and Armagh SDLP MLA Justin McNulty has welcomed the most recent developments.
He said that he had held “intensive meetings” with health authorities in recent months in relation to protecting Mullaghbawn Surgery.
And he added: “I very much welcome the announcement by the Trust today that they will be stepping in to take over management of the Surgery.
“The appointment of locum GPs to Mullaghbawn for the short term until a permanent managing GP can be found will provide relief and reassurance to local patients and will ensure that staff can be confident about their jobs and the future of services at the practice.
“The challenges in primary care are well documented, and South Armagh has some of the worst GP to patient ratios in the North.
“I am deeply grateful to all those who worked together to protect Mullaghbawn Surgery and ensure that this crisis did not become a catastrophe.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Áine Quinn also welcomed the news.
The Slieve Gullion councillor said: “This will give much-needed certainty to the thousands of patients who rely on these services all across South Armagh.
“It will also give the Trust and the Department of Health space to work on finding a permanent GP to secure the long-term future of the practice.
“It’s important that patients are notified quickly of any changes made to services at the practice to make this transition as smooth as possible.
“Sinn Féin and others have worked with the Department for Health for months now to find a solution and protect GP services in this practice.
“We need an Executive formed now and a Health Minister in place to invest in the health service and ensure people have first-class services.”