Varadkar criticises doctors’ group over free GP care stance

NAGP tells members they have moral duty to prevent introduction of plan for under-6s

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has rounded on the National Association of General Practitioners after it called on members not to sign up to the Government’s proposal for free care for under-6s. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has rounded on the National Association of General Practitioners after it called on members not to sign up to the Government’s proposal for free care for under-6s. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has rounded on the National Association of General Practitioners after it called on members not to sign up to the Government’s proposal for free care for under-6s.

Mr Varadkar said he was surprised that one of the groups representing GPs does not agree with investing more in primary care and would prefer the ring-fenced money for the scheme goes to hospitals and drug companies instead.

Talks on the detail of the scheme with the other doctors’ group, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), were progressing, he said. However, the NAGP was opposed to Government policy and was not part of these talks.

“They have now called for GPs not to sign up to a contract which they haven’t even seen yet.”

Ultimately, it would be up to individual GPs, as self-employed contractors, to decide for themselves whether they want to sign up for the new service, the Minister said.

The NAGP, in a letter to members this weekend, said family doctors had an ethical and moral responsibility to prevent the introduction of a scheme “which will only serve to increase the abhorrent inequities in our health scheme”.

“With hundreds of patients on trolleys in our emergency departments every day and medical cards being removed from or denied to cancer patients, it is morally reprehensible to invest scarce public funds into providing free care to any group of people who do not have a genuine medical or financial need,” Dr Michael McConville, a Cavan GP and a member of the NAGP’s national council, said.

The IMO said it was in negotiations with the Department of Health and the HSE on both the under-6s contract and a wider new GP contract to deliver chronic care programmes, which was its key priority.

While supporting free GP care, the policy must be delivered in a planned way with adequate resources, a spokesman said.

“There can be no question of simply loading complex workload into a GP system which has been decimated by years of draconian cutbacks and is struggling to cope with current demand.”