GP out-of-hours service received more than €4m from HSE last year

Representative bodies claim HSE figures on GP and dentist earnings are ‘misleading’

Figures released by the HSE  show that the largest amounts paid to GPs last year under the scheme went to family doctor out-of-hours services. Photograph: Getty Images

Figures released by the HSE show that the largest amounts paid to GPs last year under the scheme went to family doctor out-of-hours services. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The out-of-hours family doctor service in Carlow and Kilkenny, known as Caredoc, received more than €4.3 million in gross payments under the medical card scheme (GMS) last year, the HSE has said.

Figures released by the health authority on Thursday show that the largest amounts paid to GPs last year under the scheme went to family doctor out-of-hours services.

Northdoc Medical Services, the out-of-hours GP service in north Dublin, received more than €2 million in gross payments including practice supports. Nedoc, which is backed in the northeast, received more than €1.7 million.

The figures released by the HSE showed that the medical practice of Dr Catherine Coleman in north Dublin received €931,000 in gross payments, including practice supports, under the scheme last year.

Practice supports are grants paid by the HSE towards the cost of staff such as nurses and secretaries in doctors’ offices.

The practice of Dr Andrew Jordan, former chairman of the National Association of General Practitioners, in Tallaght, Dublin, received gross payments including practice supports of €928,000 last year.

Fees

In terms of pharmacy services, the HSE said Median Healthcare Services in Dublin southwest received €1.2 million in fees last year under its GMS, hardship and methadone programmes. Waterford Health Park Pharmacy Ltd received €662,000 under the programmes.

The HSE said the practice of dentist Dr Eamon Thomas Noonan in Limerick received €328,000. It said the practices of Jerome Kiely in south Tipperary and John Heeney in north Dublin received about €300,000 each.

Representative bodies criticised the publication of the figures, saying they represented gross payments and were not salaries for individual practitioners.

Dr Denis McCauley, chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP Committee, said the figures were “utterly misleading and unhelpful and in no way reflected the reality of general practice”.

“The fee levels are in the form of capitation which is set irrespective of how many times the patient visits or the level of care they require. They are not GP salaries and out of these fees the GP has to first pay all costs associated with running the practice including staff costs, rent, utilities, all IT and diagnostic equipment, insurance and all other normal business costs,” he said.

“There is a crisis in medical manpower within general practice. If these figures were reflective of GP salaries, we would not be facing a recruitment crisis, with our GP graduates choosing to continue their careers outside of Ireland. ”

‘Unhelpful’

Fintan Hourihan, chief executive of the Irish Dental Association, said the group was “angry” that details of the payments had been released when the Data Commissioner previously ruled that these figures constituted personal data and upheld an IDA challenge to their publication.

“We believe it is misleading and unhelpful to publish raw data without any reference to the massive cuts which have been made to the medical card scheme since 2010 or indeed to the costly overheads that dentists have to meet to provide care for their medical card patients.”

The Irish Pharmacy Union said the pharmacy sector continued to operate in an increasingly difficult environment, with cuts imposed through financial emergency legislation and other factors putting many under pressure.

It said that a recent review by accountants Fitzgerald Power calculated that, since 2009, the State had extracted at least €3.8 billion in overall savings from community pharmacy payments, through a combination of reduced reimbursements for medicines, as well as significant cuts to pharmacists’ remuneration through fee reductions and elimination of mark-ups on State-funded schemes.