GPs threaten challenge to plans for free care for under-sixes

Alex White asks IMO to talks but says the issue of fees a matter for James Reilly

Minister of State for Primary Care Alex White: a letter from the IMO says proposed contract for treating under-sixes incorporates a process similar to the Fempi

Doctors are threatening a constitutional challenge to the Government's plans to introduce free GP care for the under-sixes. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) says members will reserve their constitutional rights if the Government uses emergency-type legislation to set doctors' fees for treating children aged under six.

The IMO's latest rebuff to the Government was revealed to doctors attending a meeting in Dublin last night, organised in protest at health cuts effects on general practice. In a letter to Minister of State for Primary Care Alex White, the IMO said the proposed contract for treating under-sixes incorporated a process similar to the Fempi (financial economic measures in the public interest) mechanism used to cut doctors' fees in the aftermath of the economic crash.

"The singling out of the GPs to be subject to a Fempi-type arrangement going forward is clearly unacceptable," IMO chief operating officer Susan Clyne said

in the letter. “Any attempt to incorporate a Fempi-type process in either contractual terms or new legislation at this stage would be an issue of the greatest significance in which our members must reserve all of their rights including their constitutional rights.”


Mr White has invited the IMO to talks on the scope of the proposed contract but says the issue of setting the fees that would apply is a matter for Minister for Health James Reilly. The IMO contends it is entitled to negotiate on all aspects of the proposed contract.

The meeting last night heard claims that it was “immoral” for the Government to take away medical cards from the elderly and sick and give them to children under six.The Bill providing for the measure, expected to cost €37 million a year, is due before the Cabinet next week.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

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