Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

GP’s practice staff calls on Board to ‘stabilise’ situation

The unprecedented situation facing the Rathkeeland House practice has taken a dramatic twist with practice staff criticising the Health and Social Care Board for a growing reduction in the provision of health care services in Crossmaglen and south Armagh, and its failure to fill posts vacated by retired staff.  And they are calling on the Board to “stabilise” the situation to ensure Dr. Fee can remain in his post as a GP and able to deliver his customary high level of care.

A letter, released to the Examiner and signed by “The Staff of Rathkeeland House Surgery” read: “In response to numerous queries from concerned patients regarding Dr Fee’s decision to resign from Rathkeeland House Surgery, Crossmaglen, practice staff would like it to be known that we believe that Dr. Fee, alongside his staff and medical colleagues locally, has tried to the utmost to ensure safe and effective care for patients.

Staff are aware of Dr Fee’s protracted efforts to ensure the maintenance of a fitting level of primary care for his patients and indeed for the entire population of south Armagh.  Local people will undoubtedly have noticed a significant diminution in services over recent years, and the failure to replace invaluable members of staff on their retirement.  The continuing inadequacy of medical and nursing services, and the consequent increase in risk to patients, has been very worrying to us, and we know these concerns are shared in neighbouring surgeries.  It is with regret that we support and understand his decision to resign when it became apparent that his efforts were not meeting with success.

“Rathkeeland House Surgery has been in Crossmaglen for over 25 years and it currently caters for approximately 3,500 patients from the locality.  We are award patients do not want to lose a GP who consistently goes beyond the call of duty for his patients and we are grateful for the support of patients, local newspapers and our elected representatives.  We express hope that this situation can still be stabilised with the support of the Health Board, before we lose any more of our valued medical, nursing and administration colleagues.”

In response to the staff concerns, a spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board said: “Doctors Pat Fee and Neal Walker of Rathkeeland House Surgery, Crossmaglen have notified the Health and Social Care Board of their intentions to resign and have agreed with the Board that their General Medical Services contract with the Board will end on 28 August 2015.

The Board is not in a position to comment further on the decisions made by the GPs as these are personal and private decisions made by them.

“The practice approached the Health and Social Care Board in April 2015 to discuss options for the future provision of General Medical Services for its patients after Dr Walker advised of his intention to resign from the practice. Dr Fee subsequently notified the Board in May 2015 of his intention to resign.

“The practice did seek to recruit a replacement GP for Dr Walker but this had proved unsuccessful. The GPs have been in long discussions with the Board to discuss transition arrangements given their intentions to resign and the Board has written to the GPs to confirm this agreement to terminate their contract.

“The Board is now considering options for the future provision of General Medical Services to patients of the practice and have recently written to the patients in this regard. The Board will put arrangements in place from 29 August 2015 to ensure that patients continue to have access to General Medical Services. The Board is also due to meet with Practice staff in the coming days to discuss future arrangements at the Practice.

“The Board would assure all patients that the practice will continue to provide the full range of General Medical Services to them until 28 August 2015. The Board  thank patients for their continued attendance at the practice and on-going support for the GPs and practice staff in the meanwhile.

“The Board would also thank both GPs for their longstanding commitment to their patients and offer its best wishes to each of them for the future.”