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Minister must ensure that primary care system can deal with flu threat – Ó Caoláin

28 April, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney to act urgently to ensure that the primary care system can cope with the threat of a swine flu pandemic. Following a briefing given by the Department of Health & Children to Dáil health spokespersons this afternoon, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"It is clear from this afternoon’s briefing that the Department of Health & Children and the HSE are advancing their precautions and preparations for a possible swine flu pandemic. They are acting on the assumption that cases will occur here. As there is yet no vaccine for this new strain of flu and as it will take some months for one to become available the identification and isolation of cases will be vital.

"The front line in this situation is our primary care system, especially general practitioners. I would be concerned that the inadequate nature of our primary care system will be a weakness in addressing the threat. We have a relatively low GP to population ratio and primary care services are unevenly spread. High GP fees deter many people on low incomes who do not qualify for the medical card from visiting the doctor.

"Therefore I am calling on the Minister to act urgently to ensure that the primary care system can cope with this threat. This may require measures such as temporary or mobile clinics and free examinations for those with flu-like symptoms who have recently visited an affected area or have been in contact with a known case of swine flu." ENDS

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