Members of the remaining six GP practices in Portadown Health Centre have applied to temporarily close their lists to new patients, amid fears they will be swamped once Bannview Medical Practice closes in two weeks.
It means patients at Bannview, who number around 5,000, would have to seek medical care elsewhere.
The decision to apply for temporary list closure was taken at an emergency meeting on December 22, where the GPs were informed that Bannview will cease to exist on January 16,
The GPs outlined their position, and their fears over quality and safety, in a letter to Dr Margaret O’Brien, of the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB).
They said, “On this date (January 16) there will be no-one within the practice (Bannview): no doctors, no nurses and no reception staff.
“We were also informed that if no alternative provider comes forward within the intervening period, then the HCSB plans to disperse the Bannview practice list of local practices.
“It was made evident at this meeting that all practices in Portadown were operating at or beyond maximum capacity and had no capacity to take on any extra workload.
“Currently all practices 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.
“In the interests of sustaining quality and safety of care and medical services to our existing patients, all Portadown practices have applied for temporary list closure with immediate effect.”
The applications have been submitted to the practice support manager in the HSCB southern offices,
The letter added, “In light of the above facts the remaining GP practices will not be in a position to provide medical services to any Bannview patients on or after Monday, January 16.
“We are writing to inform you of our decision on this matter.”
The letter also asked the board to provide the Portadown practice with contact information which they could pass on to Bannview patients after the closure, so they may obtain medical care.
They added, “We would like this information circulated in advance through the local press to prevent a collapse of our telephone lines, receptionists and GPs on Monday, January 16 when 5,200 patients suddenly find themselves unable to access any GP services from the Bannview Practice.”
The letters is signed by representatives of the Burnett/MacDonald Practice, the Meadows Family Practice, the O’Connor/Morgan Practice, the Orchard Family Practice, the Riverside Practice and the Waterside Medical Practice.
MLA Doug Beattie said, “This is totally unacceptable and is an indictment of the lack of vision within our executive who are now so busy infighting that they have failed the people of Portadown by taking their eye off 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.”
In a letter provided to the Portadown Times less than a fortnight ago, Dr Shauna Heanen, the last GP to resign from Bannview, outlined the pressures and unbearable workload which had forced her to leave the job she loves.