Row over fees to GPs could delay vaccination rollout

The Irish Medical organisation has said GPs feel “taken for granted” in a wrangle which threatens to delay the start of a new programme of vaccinations due to begin in December.

Row over fees to GPs could delay vaccination rollout

From the beginning of next month, the HSE and the Department of Health wanted to add two new vaccines to be administered by GPs to all children born after October 1 — for meningococcal B (MenB) and rotavirus.

However, the IMO said no agreement had been reached between GPs and the Department of Health, in what one doctor described as “a failure of consultation”.

The fee payable to GPs for administering the vaccines are at issue but a member of the GP Committee of the IMO, Austin Byrne, said that it was not the overriding concern of GPs, who instead wanted to see real commitment from the Government for the resourcing of practices around the country.

“We do feel taken for granted, we do feel we are being spoken to rather than consulted with,” said Dr Byrne.

Dr Byrne said that the “impasse” of the past six weeks was “regrettable” and that GPs had not even received a “zero offer”.

While there is an expectation that the matter will be resolved, the December 1 deadline for commencing the new programme seems in doubt, with Dr Byrne claiming the DOHC was engaging in “brinkmanship”.

He said there had been no direct feedback from the Department of Health and that if there was no contact from the department in the coming days, the IMO would have to inform members of it. However, it would be ultimately down to each individual practice whether or not they decide to proceed with the new vaccines from December 1.

Ireland has the highest rate of invasive meningococcal disease in Europe, and MenB disease is the major cause of these infections.

The IMO said that 55,000 children were due to be vaccinated once the scheme began.

“Ultimately this situation is symptomatic of the level of commitment in HSE/ DOHC to work with GPs to develop services and deliver improved healthcare in the community,” Dr Byrne said.

“If they cannot engage with regard to a simple matter that they/ we/ patients want, we have to fear for service development into the future.”

In its response, the HSE said “all the necessary preparations are in place” including information on the two vaccines for parents and GPs, as well as fulfilling orders from GPs for the new vaccines. It said only the issue of the fees remained.

The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) said it was seeking to be included in talks on the new vaccination schedule.

“While the NAGP will be included in negotiations for a new GP contract, we are not party to the ongoing negotiations on the new vaccination schedule, as these precede a new contract,” it said.

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