White tells IMO that GP fees unlikely to be cut further

Minister defends free GP care plan, says visit to doctor should not pose financial dilemma

Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 00:01

He added: “For clarity, I should point out that the other medical card entitlements currently enjoyed by children under 6 will not be affected in any way. For example, a child under-6 with a standard medical card will continue to receive their prescription drugs and all other services under the existing GMS scheme.”

The Minister told the meeting, which was attended by about 350 doctors, that there was still considerable work to be done to finalise a contract for GPs.

He said some elements of the draft GP contract set out by the HSE had been misrepresented or misunderstood and that the document remained a draft for consultation.

“Perhaps because of the lack of communications between us, or a want of trust on all sides, or for whatever reason, the draft has been wrongly characterised as an actual offer to GPs or as a fait accompli. That was never either our intention or expectation.”

He said he would characterise the document not as a fait accompli but rather a work in progress.

The Minister was greeted with silence as he entered the meeting and there was no applause when he concluded.

For more than an hour he took part in a question and answer session with GPs who were strongly critical of his plans.

The Minister strongly rejected assertions that medical cards had been taken from older people or those with serious illnesses to be given to more wealthy patients.

He also took issue with concerns that medical cards would be given to the children of millionaires or billionaires.

Mr White said the State did not charge the children of the wealthy for primary schooling and asked why this should not also be the case for healthcare. He said the tax system could be used to pursue equity in relation to millionaires and billionaires.

Earlier the chairman of the IMO’s GP committee Dr Ray Walley told the meeting that the organisation supported GP care, free at the point of access for all citizens.

However, he said it needed proper planning, resources and negotiations.

Dr Walley said morale among GPs was at an all- time low. He said over recent years €454 million had been taken from general practice while, at the same time, the workload was growing.

He said that more than 1,000 trained GPs had taken up positions in the UK and now for the first time middle aged GPs were also leaving to work abroad.

Dr Walley said the proposed new contract for the provision of care for children under age-6 was unacceptable.