Webdoctor.ie calling for urgent meeting with St. James’ Hospital, Department of Health and the HSE to discuss this serious matter
Webdoctor.ie, Ireland’s leading online GP service and health technology platform, is today expressing serious concern about an announcement by St James’s Hospital that they will be restricting access to the hospital’s phlebotomy (blood test) services from August 21st 2023.
Earlier this month, St James’s Hospital issued a letter to Webdoctor.ie and other General Practice clinics stating that due to “huge increases in GP workload and a lack of internal resources”, the hospital will no longer accept referrals from outside it’s catchment area for phlebotomy services as of August 21st. The letter states that ‘the Laboratory does not have enough staff, space or resources to continue this level of work and is giving 6 weeks’ notice that we will no longer accept samples from GPs outside our catchment area.’
Webdoctor.ie believes that this position is discriminating against a large cohort of patients living locally to Saint James’ Hospital and will make it difficult for us, and many other GPs, to offer a satisfactory GP service to patients. Webdoctor.ie has now written to the Clinical Director in St. James’ Hospital to request an urgent discussion about this decision. The company is also writing to the HSE and Department of Health to request a meeting on the issue.
Webdoctor.ie, which is based in Ireland and fully Irish owned, currently employs over 45 Irish registered GPs who provide up to 135,000 online consultations per year to patients right across the country. The feedback from many of these patients is that they are unable to source a local ‘Bricks & Mortar’ GP service as many GP surgeries have closed their lists completely (>70% of practices have closed their lists). As a wholly online GP service, Webdoctor.ie patients rely on the public hospital network to provide access to these much-needed phlebotomy services, which they are entitled to as detailed under Section 56 of the Health Act 1970. Under this Act, the public hospital network is obligated to provide access to these services.
Dr. Sylvester Mooney, Chief Medical Officer and Founder of Webdoctor.ie, says:
“Equitable access to phlebotomy services is essential to assist in the provision of our quality GP services and it’s particularly important for the patients who cannot access a local ‘Bricks and Mortar’ GP due to long waiting lists, and who rely totally on our service for their primary healthcare needs.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for telehealth services, including online consultations and repeat prescriptions, has increased significantly, with our own service seeing a 331% growth in GP video consultations between 2019 and 2021. According to a recent global survey by Applause, 63% of respondents stated they plan to use telehealth more than they did prior to the pandemic and 77% of patients stated they appreciated using telehealth.
With an estimated 6,000 additional GPs required to meet current patient demand, the Primary healthcare system is in crisis and we must consider all options to ensure that patients can access the vital healthcare which they seek. To restrict patient access from services such as our own in favour of historical catchment areas is discriminatory. This only serves to send this healthcare system further back in time.”