Pharmacists and dentists to press for reversal of fee cuts

Calls follow move to begin unwinding emergency cuts to GP fees

Irish Pharmacy Union president Darragh O’Loughlin: said pharmacists expected to be treated no differently from GPs or any other group. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Irish Pharmacy Union president Darragh O’Loughlin: said pharmacists expected to be treated no differently from GPs or any other group. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

Pharmacists and dentists are to press the Government to begin reversing cuts to fees and allowances that were put in place under financial emergency legislation during the recession.

The calls come on foot of a decision by the Government to establish a process aimed at unwinding legislation that underpinned cuts imposed on GPs working for the State during the same period.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has argued that about €160 million in resources to general practice were cut under the financial emergency legislation over recent years.

The announcement of the plans to unwind the financial emergency legislation in relation to GPs was set out in a memorandum of understanding reached between the IMO and the Department of Health on Friday.

The memorandum sets out the scope for the negotiation of an overall new contract between the State and GPs working for the State.

The IMO and the department are also in the final stages of negotiations on a deal for the provision of free GP care for children under six, the first step in the Government’s plan for universal free GP care.

Darragh O’Loughlin, secretary general of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), said pharmacists expected to be treated no differently from GPs or any other group. The IPU would insist that any mechanism to restore GP incomes would be applied equally to pharmacists.

He said the organisation would seek immediate discussions “to ensure such an equitable outcome for our members”.

“Pharmacists have contributed a disproportionate level of savings to the exchequer as a result of both direct and indirect cuts to pharmacy payments under the Fempi [financial emergency] Act.”

Set aside

Mr O’Loughlin added: “The IPU has made our view clear to the Minister that it is time for the Fempi Act to be repealed or, at the very least, set aside. It has served its purpose, having been used to cut pharmacists’ and other health professionals’ incomes to the bone and undermining their capacity to deliver much-needed primary healthcare services.”

The Irish Dental Association said it had put the Health Service Executive on notice at a meeting 10 days ago of its intentions to seek to recover the fee cuts introduced under the Act. Its chief executive, Fintan Hourihan, said: “Uniquely, dentists were exposed to a combination of not only a cut in professional fees but also severe cuts in the treatments the State would cover for medical card and PRSI patients.”

GPs, pharmacists and dentists operating State schemes are not health service employees but rather are contractors.