Over 2,000 patients at a Glenarm GP practice are to be reassigned after the Health and social care board failed to find GPs or practices willing to cover the surgery.
The situation was confirmed by Dr Benedict Glover, who told the Times that no applications have been received to replace him when he retires on March 31.
In addition, consultations with neighbouring practices in a bid to maintain cover at the Antrim Coast Medical Practice have proven fruitless.
Dr Glover, who has worked at the surgery for 51 years, revealed patients will be “redistributed to different practices” from mid-February.
“No-one applied and no other practice wanted to take it over,” he stated.
“It is a big loss for the area, now the nearest doctor will be 10-12 miles away.
“The surgery was a central meeting point in the local area but now the closest surgery for people from Glenarm will be Larne, for Carnlough it would be Cushendall, and for those from the back of the country it would be Broughshane.
“If the patients are reallocated to a new practice and they are unhappy they will be able to apply to join another practice after six weeks.”
Admitting that the loss would leave a “big hole in the community,” Dr Glover said the situation “wasn’t the HSCB’s fault.”
“They can only work with what they have got, and there aren’t the doctors,” he stated.
“It’s a problem all over the North of Ireland as there aren’t enough GPs.
“Also many younger GPs don’t want the responsibility of running a practice, there’s far to much bureaucracy.”
Dr Glover said that the current trend towards centralising GP services in large ‘hubs’ in towns could prove detrimental to rural practices.
Last week, a Northern Trust told the Times that a modern Health and Social Care Hub was needed in Larne after the Moyle Hospital’s x-ray department closed indefinitely.
Dr Glover said that he had been “very privileged” to work as a doctor for just over half a century.
“Overall I have been very lucky, I have had excellent patients and I have been very happy looking after them and I will miss them,” he concluded.
The HSCB said it had “nothing to add” to a statement released last week, which stated it was “continuing with negotiations to find a replacement GP” including “ongoing discussions with local GP surgeries.”