Swanlinbar locum hits back at comments made in council debate

A locum doctor has hit back at members of Cavan County Council following what, he says, were inaccurate remarks made during the April meeting of the local authority and subsequently reported by this newspaper.

Dr Cristian Cimpoeru has been a locum GP in Swanlinbar Health Centre for almost three years since the retirement of Dr Jacqueline Ellis-Deering and Dr Kevin Deering who both retired on October 31, 2020.

A locum is a temporary position until such time as a permanent GP is employed/contracted for the practice. Read statement from HSE below.

However, Cathaoirleach John Paul Feeley raised a motion at the meeting earlier this month requesting “permanent general practice service” be restored to the Swanlinbar area highlighting how the service is only available four days a week.

Upset by the motion, Dr Cimpoeru stated: “I’m a locum on paperwork but I’ve been here for three years. I’ve been acting like a normal GP would. I assumed responsibility because I care about the patients and about the community, and also I am going to all the CME meetings.”

Raising the motion, Cllr Feeley stated that, without a permanent service, people could be left without a consistent service.

He also outlined how the locum was only available from Monday to Thursday, which Cllr Feeley deemed insufficient for the population of the area.

In response, Dr Cimpoeru stated: “I’ve been contracted from Monday to Thursday because they [HSE] never offered the Friday.

“If they do, I'd be more than happy to work on a Friday because I currently work in a different practice on a Friday and I’m driving three hours to get there, so it would be a relief for me not to be working there.”

Cllr Feeley further remarked at the meeting: “People never know what doctor they are dealing with. A different GP is dealing with them each time.”

Dr Cimpoeru insists he is committed to his job and the care of his patients, often giving it priority over his personal life.

“On January 26, my son was two years old and we had a holiday in Switzerland booked. The doctor who was supposed to replace me for that holiday of a week got sick a day before the holiday, so I decided not to close the surgery."

He said, as a locum, he is permitted to work whatever hours suit him, however he works as often as he can because he cares for his patients' wellbeing.

“I have no legal obligation. I proposed to the agency to cancel my holidays and just stay and work.

“I cancelled my two-year-old son’s birthday, and cancelled all the family that was supposed to go there too. I lost four thousand euros as well and nobody reimbursed me any money. So I lost the money and stayed and worked.

“I also worked on my birthday on September 20 because there was nobody to replace me so I preferred to stay and work.”

HSE continue to advertise post for permanent GP

The Health Services Executive has said that it continues to advertise the post of a permanent GP for Swanlinbar but, to date, no suitable candidate has come forward.

In a statement to The Anglo-Celt, the HSE confirmed that the previous GP retired from the practice on October 31, 2020, but the interim ‘doctor in charge’ at the practice “is working well”.

“The HSE continues to readvertise this post on an ongoing basis and will continue to do so until it is filled. The HSE remains unsuccessful in recruiting a GP permanently into this post as none of the applications received to date met the recruitment eligibility criteria including holding the necessary qualifications,” read the statement.

In the interim, a ‘Doctor in Charge’ has been put in place in the Swanlinbar practice. “This means that the HSE is directly responsible for the provision of medical services to medical card and GP visit card holders assigned to this practice until a new GP is permanently recruited to take charge of this practice,” continued the statement.

Since November 1, 2020, a GP has been providing medical services in the practice. This is “on an interim basis through an agency that holds a contract with the HSE. This arrangement remains in place and is working well”.

Under the GMS scheme, the HSE contracts GPs to provide medical services without charge to medical card and GP visit card holders. “The Government is aware of the workforce issues currently facing general practices particularly in rural areas. The Government and HSE continue to work together to ensure patients across the country continue to have access to GP services and that general practice is sustainable in all areas into the future.

“Where a vacancy arises in a practice with a GMS contract, the HSE becomes actively involved in the recruitment process to find a replacement GP. A GP must give the HSE three months’ written notice prior to retirement to allow for succession planning,” confirmed the HSE in the statement.