The Irish Medical Organisation says key concerns it raised over free GP care for under sixes have been “comprehensively dealt” with by the HSE and the Department of Health.
The HSE has agreed to extend the deadline for GPs to return contracts by two weeks to Friday, June 5.
The health authority also decided that patients aged under six would not be reassigned to GPs who take up the contract during the summer.
The chairman of the IMO’s GP committee, Dr Padraig McGarry, said the clarifications would reassure GPs about key aspects of the contract.
In particular, the Department of Health and the HSE stated that the under-sixes contract would not be a template for a new general medical services (GMS) contract.
Also, GPs could carry out period assessment on child patients aged two and five opportunistically and not at the exact ages being reached.
Doctors were also reassured by the Department of Health and HSE that the under-sixes contract was intended as an interim one, to be reviewed by August 1 next year at the latest.
The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) said contentious issues about the scheme and contract remained and it wanted to meet the HSE and the department.
The NAGP also confirmed that it had been contacted by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in relation to its activities. Last month it called for a rejection of the under-sixes contract.
The commission has warned the NAGP that it could be acting illegally if it engages in a boycott of the under-sixes contract.
However, the NAGP believes the commission should not be involved in the issue, particularly when so many of its members had ethical concerns.
“Doctors have a duty to advocate for their vulnerable patients and they must be allowed to do so,” the NAGP stated.
The association still believes that the under-sixes scheme is not in the best interest of patients and is not an efficient or effective use of scarce healthcare funds.
Chairperson of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Isolde Goggin, said there could be a potential breach of the law if the boycott by doctors was intended to prevent, restrict or distort competition.
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