GPs have overwhelmingly backed the €210 million deal with the Government to reverse cuts made during the economic downturn and reform the management of patients with chronic diseases.
GP members of the Irish Medical Organisation voted by 95 per cent in favour of the deal negotiated with the Government earlier this year.
The vote clears the way for the introduction of new services for medical-card patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular conditions.
It also involved the restoration of funding cut from general practice during the austerity years, in return for cooperation with reforms.
As part of the agreement, the IMO dropped its objection in principle to the Government’s plans to extend free GP care to further cohorts of children, potentially up to the age of 12.
However the implementation of any such extension of free GP care beyond the existing cut-off point of age six would require further negotiations and the Government would have to pay GPs more money to put in place such services.
IMO president Dr Padraig McGarry welcomed the ballot result but cautioned it must be viewed in the context of a first step towards the development of a fully resourced GP service.
“This is a crucial first step for GPs and their patients in terms of delivering on the potential of general practice,” he said. “Our fight for greater investment and the further development of services continues, and we hope that Government now recognise the enormous value of general practice and will support new investment into the future.”
In addition to talks on providing free GP care to children up to the age of 12, very significant negotiations were required in relation to appropriate services to patients in nursing homes, he said.
“It is clear that we have only scratched the surface when it comes to supporting GPs and encouraging our younger GPs to stay and establish in Ireland, so while we welcome this important first step we must ensure that the Government continues to support and develop a viable GP service which is proven to be better for patients and value for money for the taxpayer.”
The deal includes €120 million to reverse the Fempi cuts of 2015, plus €10 million in pension contributions. A further €80 million is for the management of medical-card patients with chronic disease in the community.
The extension of free GP care to older children is expected to one of Fine Gael’s main campaigning planks in the next general election.