The Government published a new draft contract for the provision of free GP care for all children aged under six yesterday evening.
However, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) criticised the move, saying the Government hoped to push the contract through without any consultation with the GP trade union group.
Chairman of the IMO’s GP committee Dr Ray Walley said there was a need for negotiations on the Government’s plans to introduce doctor-only visits cards for all children under the age of six by July this year.
“What is happening here is nothing more than an imposition by Government of terms and conditions on doctors and this does not happen in Government dealings with any other sector.”
The IMO was one of three medical organisations that met Minister for State for Primary Care Alex White yesterday to discuss plans for the free GP care for children under six.
Mr White also met with representatives of the Irish College of General Practitioners.
The head of the national association of GPs, Chris Goodey, said there were ethical problems with providing GP care at the expense of more vulnerable in society.
Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, Dr Goodey said he was concerned that people could die because GPs would be so busy seeing patients they would not be able to give them the attention they needed.
“We always run the risk of that and careful planning needs to be put in place to ensure that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Free GP care for children under six is expected to cost €37m this year. Around 420,000 children are expected to benefit from the scheme.
It will be up to GPs to decide whether to participate in the scheme.
The HSE’s draft contract for providing free care to children under six years would operate for five years with the option to extend the scheme, subject to A satisfactory performance review.
Dr Walley said their meeting with Mr White gave them no confidence promises made to patients by the Government could be realised.
“This so-called consultative process is flawed as there are simply no meaningful negotiations and we have asked the minister to commence full and meaningful negotiations,” he said.
Mr White said there would be a consultation process on the new GP contract.
He said the three-week consultation process that started yesterday related to the content and scope of the contract. New enabling legislation was also being drafted.
He said the consultation process would include the fee structure, although, ultimately that would be set by Health Minister James Reilly.
He said the views of the public and interested bodies were also being invited. The 42-page draft contract can be viewed on the HSE website at www.hse.ie/under6contract.
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