2018 needs to be 'The Year of the GP Contract' says Longford GP

Longford GP, Dr Padraig McGarry speaks out

Jessica Thompson

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Jessica Thompson

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jessica.thompson@longfordleader.ie

Dr Padraig McGarry

Dr Padraig McGarry

Local GP and Chairperson of the IMO GP Committee, Dr Padraig McGarry has called on the government to start supporting the need for an amended GP contract in 2018.

Dr McGarry sent out a tweet on New Year's Day demanding that serious action be taken this year.

“The current GP contract is 40 years old and it was developed in a different time when there were different requirements,” Dr McGarry explained to the Leader.

“ It needs to be updated to deal with the issues that GPs are currently facing.

“Negotiations have been going on for nine or ten months but, to date, there has been no solid commitment by the Government to fund that.”

Only 3.6% of the health budget goes to general practice, Dr McGarry explained, adding that, in other jurisdictions, that figure is a comparable eight or nine percent.

“There is no way we can have another contract under the current funding model,” he continued.

“Everybody from all strata has agreed that the General Practice is severely underfunded.

“We can talk all we like about a new contract, but until that funding is provided, it won’t happen.”

One of the issues for General Practice is attracting new GPs into the service, as many newly-qualified doctors are opting to go to other jurisdictions with a better contract.

“It is estimated that by 2025, there will be 2,500 new GPs needed,” Dr McGarry explained.

“Many GPs at the moment are over the age of 60 and will retire in the next five years and it is unlikely that, under the current contract, they will be replaced.

“Until General Practice becomes a career which people opt into as a first choice, we will not be able to attract new GPs and that will become a huge problem especially in rural Ireland.

“And the question I’ve asked is ‘Is the government up for it?’”

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD responded to Dr McGarry's tweet with a simple: “I'm up for it!” But Dr McGarry says that unless he can get the full backing of the Government, this won't be enough.

“I have no doubt that he is up for it. But this will only come about if the government gets behind the department of health to provide the resources necessary,” he concluded.