East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has appealed to the Health Minister to meet with politicians and community leaders to explain why his Department is breaking a previous commitment to retain GP services in Carnlough.
he DUP MP said that Health Minister Robin Swann is “refusing” to meet with the local community to discuss the matter.
He said: “At a packed public meeting over five weeks ago, it was agreed that a meeting should be sought with Minister Swann.
“Despite writing on two occasions and speaking personally with the Minister, he is refusing to meet to discuss this matter.
“The Minister has claimed that ‘the legals’ prevent him from engaging. Yet, when pressed, has admitted that his Department is not currently subject to any legal challenge. Surely the way to avoid a challenge would be to listen to concerns and try to address them?” he added.
“The Minister’s intransigence and failure to even listen to concerns means that people who live in an isolated part of my constituency will have to travel many miles, often on routes not serviced by public transport, to access GP services.”
“Even at this late stage, on behalf of the DUP and other parties, I would appeal to the Minister to engage and explain why the commitment by his predecessor to keep services in Carnlough has been abandoned.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health confirmed that the Glens of Antrim Medical Centre’s intentions to reduce their Carnlough branch surgery service to two half days per week took effect in June.
“Carnlough branch patients will, of course, still be able to attend the main surgery premises in Cushendall, where a full time service will continue to be available,” a departmental spokesperson said, adding that there has been no cut in funding to Glens of Antrim Medical Centre.
“The practice did receive an additional support payment which came into effect on February 10 2017 when the Practice agreed to accept 1,381 patients from Antrim Coast Medical Practice.
“This temporary funding was to support the Practice for a period of three years to enable them to manage the registration and complete an initial clinical review of these additional patients.
“The funding was not indefinite, it was additional, temporary support offered to any GP Practice which take on additional patients following the closure of a nearby GP Practice.
“This additional support was extended for a further year due to the particular impact of Covid-19, and is over and above the standard remuneration GP Practices receive which is based on patient population of the Practice.
“Even though the agreement ended officially on the March 31 2021 the funding for these 1,381 patients now forms part of the increased standard remuneration this practice now receives.
“The Department also continues to fund the rent and rates for the branch surgery premises in Carnlough.”