BACK IN THE GAME Dr Jerry Cowley (centre) at the launch of his Campaign for the 2016 General Election in Mulranny. He is running as an Independent with the ‘No Doctor, No Village’ campaign. He is joined by Co Clare doctor, Dr Michael Harty (right) who has already declared that he will run in the Clare Constituency. Meeting Chairperson Dr Fergus Glynn, Corofin, Co Clare is pictured on left.
THE ‘No Doctor No Village’ campaign is about more than saving GP services in rural communities, according to former Independent TD Jerry Cowley, who launched his General Election campaign last week.
A large crowd attended the launch of Dr Cowley’s election campaign, which was held in the Mulranny Amenity Centre last Tuesday evening. Dr Cowley, who was Mayo’s first and only non Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael TD when he was elected in 2002, is standing under the ‘No Doctor No Village’ banner, which aims to protect and enhance medical care in rural communities.
Addressing his supporters, Dr Cowley said retiring rural GPs were not being replaced by young doctors because their supports were being cut. He argued that centralisation of health care into large towns would destroy the fabric of rural communities.
“I have a service in the village of Currane, and when I first came here over 30 years ago, there was a shop, a post office and a school, and they are all gone. I am the only [GP] left there, and when I retire, if the powers that be have their way, the people will have to go to Westport to see a doctor. That is the plan they have for us, and they think it’s grand. But they forget that people live in these communities and need to be visited, and they cannot be travelling to Castlebar or Westport. But that will happen.
“This [campaign] is about ensuring people can live in rural areas, businesses can survive in rural Ireland, Garda stations are open to keep people safe and people can send their children to their local school,” he said.
He explained that in the next three to five years 915 GPs are due to retire in Ireland, and that it is becoming more difficult to replace them. He said GPs only receive 2.5 percent of the health budget, with the rest going to hospitals. If greater resources were given, he said, it would prevent people having to be admitted to A&E.
The launch was chaired by Dr Liam Glynn, a GP based in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, who described Dr Cowley as an inspiration to rural doctors. The birth of the ‘No Doctor No Village’ campaign, he said, was in Mulranny, when GPs met there and discussed the threats to rural medical services last October.
He said that there is huge disillusionment among rural GPs, and that they feel the only way to save rural practices was through the ballot box, because they were getting no support from the traditional parties.
Medical professionals from parts of Mayo, Roscommon and Galway were present at the launch, as was Dr Michael Harty, who has a practice in west Clare and is also contesting the general election under the ‘No Doctor No Village’ banner.
Achill-based GP Dr Paddy Lineeen and Tourmakeady GP Dr Noel Rice also spoke at the meeting where they endorsed Dr Cowley’s campaign and asked people to support him. Dr Lineen said he has never become involved in ‘political shenanigans’ before, but he is concerned for rural Mayo, which he believes has ‘gone down hill’.
George O’Malley, who is contesting the Mayo constituency under the First Independent Mayo banner, welcomed Dr Cowley’s decision to join the race. He complained that the traditional parties had done nothing to stop the decline of rural Ireland, despite having the Taoiseach in the county. He promised Dr Cowley that would have his support during the campaign.