There are still hopes for a resolution to the ongoing crisis at Bannview Medical Practice in Portadown despite failed negotiations with a neighbouring GP falling through at the eleventh hour.
Armagh I understands that contracts with Riverside Group Practice – also located in the Portadown Health Centre – were close to being signed before the plug was pulled over what was described as “differing interpretations”.
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly has said that while the break-down in talks was “hugely disappointing” she was still hopeful for a resolution.
“The Health Board is already in early stage talks with another practice so hopefully we can get some positive news there,” Ms Kelly said.
“During a meeting earlier today I made it absolutely clear that a dispersal of the practice’s 5,000 patients was not an option – only as an absolute last resort. Patients’ interests must be at the centre of negotiations and I urge all parties to reach an early, successful conclusion.”
She added: “GPs are already overstretched and it would be a disaster for the patients and the area.
“There would be no guarantee for the patients that they would get a place in the Craigavon area, let alone the Portadown Health Centre – it could be much further afield.
“However, we have been reassured that this is the absolute last resort of the Board.”
The Upper Bann MLA continued: “I am very disappointed that it has come to this but it must be stressed that the patients have to be the number one priority on all fronts here.
“It continues to be one of the most frequent issues raised in my constituency office – having access to the GP, or access to other treatment resources at the practice.
“It’s a huge disappointment because we were so close to a resolution; contracts were being exchanged and then there were different interpretations.
“We thought the contracts were going to be signed last Friday night, that’s how close it was and I think things changed very quickly.”
Earlier today, the Health and Social Care Board issued a statement, which read: “We would like to reassure patients of Bannview Practice that the practice currently remains open and patients should continue to contact the practice as normal for their ongoing care, including any scheduled appointment to receive their Covid-19 vaccination.
“We remain optimistic that we will secure a new contract holder for Bannview Practice although we are disappointed that the practice we have been in caretaker negotiations with has decided to withdraw.
“We would ask patients and local political representatives to remain patient as we continue to work through this process.”