Lukewarm response from local doctors about new free GP care plan

Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD.
Government plans to introduce free GP care to all children under the age of six has been given a sceptical rebuke by some local doctors.

Government plans to introduce free GP care to all children under the age of six has been given a sceptical rebuke by some local doctors.

The National Association of General Practitioners’ national council, over the weekend, unanimously rejected Health Minister Leo Varadkar’s latest proposal.

And it was a stance two locally based GPs were quick to endorse this week.

One of those who asked for their name not to be mentioned, said the scheme would only serve to increase pressure on a system already struggling to make ends meet.

“I’m not happy about this at all. For the past six years, the Government and the HSE have been reducing the salary and services we have been providing.

“How in the name of God can we (GPs) provide this service free when we have the likes of rates, rent, secretaries’ salaries, electricity, phones and computers to pay for as well.

“Does this mean that I will have to take early retirement?”

As part of its talks with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), the Government agreed to increase its investment in the plan from €37m to €67m.

This, it’s argued, will allow capitation fees of €125 for children to be covered by the scheme.

Additional payments and supports mean doctors could receive up to €216 per patient.

They are measures which appear to have raised more questions than answers however.

“I am a GP for 35 years and this is the toughest I have seen it (for GPs).”

Another Longford-based GP meanwhile, described the the move as little more than a “political stroke” with a general election on the horizon.

“My gut reaction is that it isn’t a great deal for the taxpayer,” said the GP.

“Most of my colleagues would feel it is unecessary. It’s taking off Peter to pay Paul.”

Meanwhile, the National Association of General Practitioners, which represents 1,200 GPs has warned the Health Minister the plan “will not happen” unless Mr Varadkar meets the body to sort out their concerns.