TELEPHONE chaos at four GP practices in Omagh is causing untold ‘distress and frustration’ for patients.
The system failure – the source of which has yet to be identified – is reportedly affecting up to 30,000 people and has resulted in surgeries struggling to cope.
For the past six weeks patients phoning into either the Three Spires, Strule, Grange or Drumragh practices have been getting a steady engaged tone or loud squealing noise or been put through to non-existent mailboxes.
As a result of the debacle, many people have been left with no other option except to call in person to the reception desk at their GP surgery.
Manager at Three Spires, Carmel Loughlin has apologised to patients for the disruption.
“All of us here are well aware that it is the patients who are suffering and I cannot stress enough how sorry we are for the distress and frustration that this is causing our patients and staff,” she told the Ulster Herald.
“We are working in a GP practise and it is extremely concerning for patients who are contacting us seeking an appointment, to speak with a doctor or get test results and cannot get through.
“Everyone at the four practises is really working very hard to get this sorted. It’s taking hours of our time every day, but at the moment we’re struggling.
“Unfortunately, we have been unable to get anyone to take responsibility for what is happening. The source of the problem still hasn’t been located, but we are being supported by BT Open Reach to get a solution.”
Senior staff from BT are currently working at all the GP practises to try and find the source of the glitch, and resolve it.
The four practices moved to the new site at Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex in 2017.
Minister for Health, Robin Swann, has also been urged to intervene by West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA, Catherine Kelly.
She said the issue did not seem to have been accorded the urgency it requires by the providers of the telephone system.
“The phone lines have been totally down in the Three Spires and only intermittently operational in the Drumragh and Grange Practises,” she said.
“This has been causing serious issues to the everyday running of the surgeries for staff and making it extremely difficult for people to secure or cancel appointments and leaving many older people having to call into the surgeries in person.
“With 30,000 people being treated by these three surgeries, you can only imagine the confusion and chaos that this is causing.”