Competition Authority extends deadline for GPs to reverse protest at fee cuts

Organisation’s reponse amounts to breach of competition law, authority warns

The Competition Authority has written to the IMO and warned  its response to  fee cuts amounted to a breach of competition law. Photograph: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire

The Competition Authority has written to the IMO and warned its response to fee cuts amounted to a breach of competition law. Photograph: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire

Fri, Jul 12, 2013, 21:34

The Competition authority has extended the deadline it set for the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to reverse the decision by its GP members to withdraw from a number of services and initiatives in protest at new fee cuts introduced by the Government.

Yesterday the Competition Authority wrote to the IMO and warned that its response to the fee cuts amounted to a breach of competition law.

GPs operating the medical card and other State schemes are not employees of the health service but rather are independent contractors.

The IMO said earlier this week that its GPs members would withdraw from primary care teams, community intervention teams and clinical care programmes for chronic diseases. It also said it would pull out of any work not covered under the terms of their contract with the HSE.

The Competition Authority said it intended to take all necessary enforcement action if the IMO failed to rescind its decision concerning the withdrawal of services.

It set a deadline of 4 pm today for the IMO to reverse its stance.

The IMO said the matters raised by the Competition Authority were “complex and require detailed consideration by the organisation and its legal advisors. It sought the Authority to extend its deadline to 11am on Wednesday to allow it to prepare its response.

The Competition Authority later said it would extend its deadline to 12pm on Monday.

“The Authority is of the view that the press release issued by the IMO makes it clear that the withdrawal of these services is directly linked to the decision of the Government to cut fees paid to GPs. Withdrawing services, regardless of claims that they may be free or pro bono, is viewed as an attempt to directly or indirectly fix the fees that are paid to GPs by the Government under the GMS contract.”

“Self-employed GPs are subject to competition law, as they are private businesses, unlike employees who may act collectively, represented by a union and are not subject to competition law.”

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