GPs to protest outside Dáil over ‘growing crisis’

NAGP claim general practice is being ‘destroyed’ because of cuts

Hundreds of GPs are due to gather outside the gates of the Dáil on Molesworth Street.

Hundreds of GPs are due to gather outside the gates of the Dáil on Molesworth Street.

 

GPs are set protest outside Leinster House on Wednesday over the Government’s lack of investment in general practice.

The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), the group who have organised the demonstration and represent more than 2,000 GPs, said general practice had been “abandoned” by the Government and the community care system was collapsing following years of funding cuts.

“The number of doctors who can no longer take on any more patients is a growing crisis,” a statement from the group said ahead of the protest.

Family doctors have argued the Government must restore about €160 million in cuts which were put in place over recent years if general practice is to function again.

NAGP chairman Dr Andrew Jordan said general practice was “being destroyed”.

He said if primary care services were to be developed to provide additional services such as X-rays for patients the State’s investment in general practice would need to increase by €400 million or €500 million to bring the total to about €1 billion annually.

Dr Jordan said the payment per patient had decreased as a result of various cuts by about 38 per cent.

Asked whether GP s were prepared to provide additional productivity in return for the reversal of austerity -era cuts, Dr Jordan said: “ That conversation might have been OK a few years ago but now we have an appetite within general practice that they just want the money back.”

Dr Jordan said GP s were now longer able to compete in the market for staff.

“We are starting to lose our own staff, our secretaries , our practice nurses. We are not able to retain staff,” he said.

“As the economy improved, I lost three secretaries in the last year, all looking for pay increases.”

Dr Jordan said the NAGP wanted to see a reversal of the cuts of about €160 million made under financial emergency legislation (Fempi) and then the negotiation of a fit-for -purpose new contract with the Government.

NAGP president Dr Maitiu O’ Tuathail said general practice had no capacity to take on new services at present.

He said he did not want to see additional elements bolted on to the current GP contract, which was 50 years old.

Dr Jordan said general practice was “ in an awful state”.

The NAGP said 50 per cent of practices were in debt trying to keep going.

It said 70 per cent of practices outside of Dublin were not taking on any new patients as they were at capacity.

“Entire counties such as Monaghan now have no GP that can take on new patients. There are over 700 GP s due to retire within the next 5 years. “

NAGP chief executive Chris Goodey said waiting times for patients to see a GP had increased. He said in Wicklow it could take up to 10 days to secure an appointment with a family doctor.

At the protest a cavalcade of “Doctor on Call” cars will block up the road from Merrion Square to Leinster House from 2pm as part of the demonstration.

Hundreds of GPs are due to gather outside the gates of the Dáil on Molesworth Street as well.

The NAGP said newly trained doctors are emigrating after they finish training, and older GPs are retiring early, due to the current strain on the system.

“There are not enough GPs to serve the public and many are having to retire early, due to burnout,” a spokesman for organisation said.

The medical card system, which provides for free GP visits to card holders, “can no longer cope” due to under resourcing over the last decade, he said.

GPs demands include sustained State investment in the family doctor service over the next 10 years and a reversal of 2010 public pay cuts to GPs without any pre-conditions.

Elsewhere, a full 24-hour ban on overtime organised by the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) will begin on Wednesday and continue into Thursday.

A previous protest ban on working overtime on Tuesday among psychiatric nurses did not include overnight rosters.

The escalation followed a lack of meaningful engagement from Government on the recruitment and retention crisis in the nursing sector, the PNA said.

The psychiatric nurses action comes in the middle of a wider strike by about 40,000 nurses and midwives from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) over pay, which they claim is leading to staff retention issues.

The Government said it is not in the position to fund pay increases and that to do so would prompt pay claims from other public servants.

Further INMO strikes are scheduled to take place on Thursday and February 12th, 13th, 14th, 19th and 21st.