Reports that GPs are expected to be offered around €100 a year per child under the Government’s plans to provide free GP care to children under six years of age have been dismissed by the Department of Health.
“It is not accurate to suggest that an offer of the type indicated by some reports is about to be made by the department/HSE,” the department stated.
It had been reported by RTÉ that the payment to GPs was expected to be set at around €75 a year for each child, plus €25 a year for periodic assessments.
Talks on a contract to provide free GP care to more than 240,000 under- 6s are at an advanced stage between the department, HSE, and the Irish Medical Organisation.
A spokesperson for the IMO said the media reports on what was being discussed or considered about payments and services were not only inaccurate but “wide of the mark”.
A sum of €25m has been set aside for the scheme this year but this is based on existing service levels and fee rates.
What is now envisaged, according to the department, is an enhanced service including periodic assessments for children — once at age two and once at age five.
Enhanced services for children with asthma are also envisaged.
Both the department and IMO are discussing a fee for such services.
The department said it was its intention to have the under-6 GP service in place before June.
However, the National Association of General Practitioners (NGAP), which is not involved in the negotiations, has called on GPs to refuse to sign the contract, regardless of the payment offered.
The NGAP, which has about 1,200 members and represents 40% of GPs, says the needs of the most vulnerable must be addressed first.
The association’s chairman, Andy Jordan, said it was unjust to give free GP visits to a healthy child under the age of six and deny a medical card to an eight-year-old with cancer.
“GPs will not support a scheme which compounds the appalling inequities of our dysfunctional health system. The needs of the most vulnerable must be addressed first,” said Dr Jordan, a Tallaght-based GP.
A critical mass of GPs will be required to sign up to the under-6s scheme for it to proceed.
The NAGP is urging both member and non-member GPs for a collective show of strength.
“This is our opportunity to fight for our vulnerable patients and our crumbling general practice services. The under-6s must be postponed,” said Dr Jordan.
“The focus needs to be placed on a complete reform of existing general practice services and the medical card scheme.”
The NAGP recently conducted a survey of all GPs (2,900) and of those who responded (1,200) 94% were opposed to the provision of GP care for under-6s in principle.
The provision of free GP care for under-6s was announced by the Government two years ago.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved