Medical practice still in limbo as contractor backs out of takeover
Crisis-hit surgery Bannview Medical Practice was thrown back into turmoil last night as the contractor expected to take the reins pulled out.
Plans to save the Portadown practice, which is currently functioning without a single GP, were announced earlier this month, but once again the future for more than 5,000 patients is unclear.
"People are now getting worried again, and rightly so," said patients' campaigner Tony Hendron, who has been registered at the surgery for 40 years.
"We finally felt reassured a couple of weeks ago, but we're back to square one. We're getting a Third World health service here, with doctors only offering emergency appointments. We've got old people, people with conditions, and people who simply need to see their doctors without feeling like they're being a burden, getting extremely anxious.
"The board has left it much too late to sort this out and now we've got a disaster on our hands, with patients not knowing where to turn next.
"I fully intend to keep the pressure up on this, because the problem needs to be sorted out - and quickly."
Bannview has been plagued with pressures since the summer, when a single doctor was left to care for 5,200 patients - two years after problems originally came to light.
After the doctor's resignation last month, a full-blown crisis emerged, with the practice relying on locums to care for patients at an estimated cost of £500 per day. And while the contractor lined up to take the reins in March was expected to put a stop to all that, the problems are now back on the table.
Health Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "This is extremely disappointing news and I have asked for an urgent meeting with the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) to ensure that patients continue to receive safe and high quality healthcare.
"The HSCB will continue to manage the practice in the interim period until a new contractor is appointed.
"No decision has been made to close the practice and the HSCB will be writing to all patients to advise them of the current arrangements."
Dr Tom Black, chair of British Medical Association's General Practitioners Committee said: "This is obviously extremely concerning news that the contractor secured for Bannview will now not be taking over the practice.
"As we have said before, the situation in Bannview is happening all over Northern Ireland and will get worse unless immediate action is taken."