IMO ‘appalled’ at free GP care for under-6s legislation

Legisaltion would allow Minister to set fees following 60-day consultation period

The chairman of the GP Committee of the 
Irish Medical Organisation (
IMO
)
 Dr Ray Walley said the legislation ‘had exceeded our worst fears’. Photograph: PA Wire

The chairman of the GP Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation ( IMO ) Dr Ray Walley said the legislation ‘had exceeded our worst fears’. Photograph: PA Wire

Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 19:31

The Irish Medical Organisation has said it is “appalled” by proposed legislation aimed at giving effect to the Government’s plans to introduce free GP care for children under 6 years.

The doctors’ trade union said that the legislation, published today by the Department of Health represented draconian measures which would destroy the very fabric of general practitioner services in Ireland.

As The Irish Times has reported over recent weeks the legislation will allow for the Minister for Health to set, and potentially vary, fees paid for GP services under thenew contract.

The legialtion would also remove children under six from the provisions of the existing GMS contract and place them under the new scheme.

In essence this means that GPs who currently are paid to treat children under age 6 as part of the medical card scheme and who wish to continue to do so will have to sign up to the new contract.

Similarly parents of children under 6 with a medical card would in future have to pay privately if they wanted to remain with a GP who did not opt for the new contract.

The proposed legislation provides for consultations to be held between the Minister and representatives of GPs in relation to the fees to apply under thenew contract for treating children under age 6.

However it says that the Minister may define the manner under which such consultations would be conducted. The proposed consultations would be limited to 60 days duration. The proposed legislation says that nothing in competition law would prevent participation in such consultations.

The chairman of the GP Committee of the IMO Dr Ray Walley said the legislation “had exceeded our worst fears”.

He said it gave the lie to the argument by Government that the move was about extending free GP visit cards to children under 6.

“This legislation has nothing to do with GP visit cards for children. It is nothing less than a unilateral attempt to replace the long-standing GMS Contract with a new, draconian contract which will destroy the very fabric of the GP service in Ireland and there are very serious concerns as to the future viability of the service.”

The IMO maintained the Government’s proposals would institutionalise the provisions of emergency legislation (FEMPI) in regard to GPs, force GPs to move to the new contract by removing existing GMS patients to the new scheme, abolish the right of the IMO to negotiate on behalf of its GP members and allow the Minister to vary the fees without any negotiation at any time

Dr Walley said the proposed legisaltion would “effectively destroy general practice and should not be enacted”.

“It reflects an arrogant mindset by an arrogant Government that should know better. On the one hand the Minister says he wants to talk to the IMO while on the other he publishes legislation that appears to make talks a futile exercise.”

“This is a line in the sand moment not just for individual GPs but for the continued viability of the GP model in Ireland.”