GPs oppose proposals for HSE-salaried doctors

HSE-employed doctors not the solution to rural GP shortages, IMO conference hears

GPs have signalled their opposition to any move by the Health Service Executive to create salaried family doctor posts.

An extreme shortage of GPs willing to take up vacant posts in lowly-populated rural areas has led to calls for the HSE to create salaried positions for doctors. A forthcoming reports from the Dáil future of healthcare committee is expected to recommend the creations of salaried posts on a limited basis.

However, delegates at the Irish Medical Organisation annual conference agreed HSE- or corporate-employed GPs were not the solution to low doctor numbers in some communities.

A motion supporting a properly resourced contract supporting the present system of private GP contractors was passed unanimously.


Proposing the motion, GP Pascal O’Dea said salaried posts might look attractive in the short term but would eventually frustrate both patients and doctors. GPs would find themselves constrained in their work while patients could suffer repeated changes of family doctor as a result of “quick-fix contracts”.

A motion calling the HSE to end the practice of assigning patients to GPs without their approval was referred back to the GP committee after lengthy debate.

Mayo GP Ken Egan said patient assignment was supposed to happen only in difficult situations, but had now become routine in the HSE. Patients who caused trouble in surgeries or who threatened the secretary were being re-assigned to a new GP without that person being aware of what had happened.

Mayo GP Jerry Cowley said there would soon be no GPs just as priests were disappearing.

Rural Ireland was being “destroyed”, he said, and “Taj Mahals” - primary care centres - were being built instead of GPs being provided.

He said his own daughter and her husband, both GPs, were now working in the Isle of Man. “They’re both lost to Ireland now. That’s unacceptable.”

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.