Six hundred GPs earn €240,000 in State fees

MORE than 600 family doctors earned more than €240,000 in State fees last year and a further 18 earned in excess of half a million.

The top-earning doctor under the Primary Care Reimbursement Schemes was Dr Anthony Crosby, of 63 Clontarf Road, Dublin, who earned more than €700,000, which includes a practice support payment of €72,106.

The top-earning dentist was Dr Terence G Fox, 40 Upper Main St, Letterkenny, Co Donegal. He received €286,380 in fees from the State. Specsavers Opticians (Cork Visionplus Ltd) at 1-2 Cook St, Cork, were the highest earners among opticians, earning €218, 374.

In total, GPs received €404.7 million in respect of fees and allowances. Payments to pharmacies amounted to €1.365 billion, compared with €1.198bn in 2005. Dentists received a total of more than €55.5m, while optometrists/ophthalmologists were paid €18m. The figures reflect income for treating patients under State schemes and they do not reflect profits, expenditure or overheads incurred.

A statement issued yesterday by the Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed that more than €2bn was paid to 5,811 doctors, pharmacies, dentists and optometrists/ophthalmologists last year through the scheme, with €681m of this in fees alone for services, including dispensing.

Publishing the 2006 Primary Care Reimbursement Schemes Overview, the HSE said payments last year were up €194m on 2005.

The fees paid are in respect of a range of public health schemes, including the medical card scheme (GMS) and the drugs payment scheme.

The HSE also said the figures “are only representative of the fees received under the public health schemes and do not include, for example, the earnings received by GPs and pharmacists through their private/retail concerns”.

“In relation to pharmacists, for example, the fees are earned through the GMS, drugs payments and long-term illness schemes. In relation to GPs, the fees are inclusive of separate funding, provided for practice support development,” a HSE statement said. The practice support will typically include practice secretary, practice nurse etc.

There are now more than 2.91 million people registered as eligible for benefit under the medical card scheme, the Drug Payment Scheme, the Long-Term Illness Scheme, the Dental Treatment Services Scheme, the Community Ophthalmic Services Schemes and GP Visit Cards in 2006.

Almost half of the population — more than 2.26 million people — availed of community-based services in 2006, for which the HSE made payments.

According to the HSE, the increased level of payments “reflects an increasing and ageing population and an increasing growth in the number of people eligible to claim under the various HSE funded schemes”.

Commenting on the increasing levels of payments, Patrick Burke, assistant national director, Primary Care Reimbursement Schemes, said: “These are demand-led schemes and the amount paid out is driven by the demand. That is continuing to increase.”

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