herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

GPs who get paid, then refer patients to casualty

GPs may be referring patients to emergency departments without providing treatment -- even though they have charged for it, a hospital consultant has said.

And Dr Chris Luke also said a shortage of junior hospital doctors, because of a "mass exodus" to Australia, means it is a constant struggle to keep emergency departments open.

He revealed that a leading cause of overcrowding was inappropriate referrals from GPs.

A lot of the patients referred have long-term illnesses and should be sent to outpatient clinics.

However, there was a shortage of such facilities, said Dr Luke, who is a consultant in emergency medicine at the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) in Cork city.

But he added that some of the referrals appeared "lazy".

Dr Luke pointed out GPs were fully paid to see a patient even if they did not treat them and referred them to a hospital.

Over the past decade, more and more patients with long-standing conditions were being referred.

This has given rise to the suspicion that emergency departments are being used as a "backdoor to outpatient services", Dr Luke said.

He also criticised what he described as the "McDonaldisation of medicine", with patients ordering treatments as if they were on a menu.

Dr Luke believes -- to combat against the shortage of junior hospital doctors -- a mandatory service stint for a few months should be introduced to help resolve the problem.



VERGE

He said doctors may have to be obliged to work in emergency medicine because the exodus of graduates every summer to Australia.

Dr Luke said the annual migration was a key cause of Ireland's inability to properly staff emergency departments.

He added that it is one of the reasons that the Mercy's emergency department was on verge of closure so often last year.

Dr Luke pointed out that medical indenture -- obliging graduates to work in hospitals -- was the norm in many parts of the world. In places like Australia, the US and Africa, doctors are obliged to work in unpopular locations for up to two years in return for their training.

comurphys@herald.ie

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