herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

GPs 'to lose patients' if they reject free U-6 care

HEALTH

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

AN ORGANISATION representing GPs is advising its members to reject the Government's plan to roll out free care for the under-sixes.

The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), representing over 1,200 of the country's 2,500 GPs, has branded the plan "medical apartheid".

Health Minister Leo Varadkar wants GPs to sign up to the contract, worth about €67m, which will give free GP visits to all those under six, as well as asthma and height and weight checks.

"The proposal will fuel the inequalities that already exist in our health service," the NAGP's chairman Dr Andy Jordan said.

The Tallaght GP said the investment should go to those in medical need.

He said that under the plan an asthma scheme will only be available to children between 2 and 4.

"It is simply a smoke and mirrors political stroke," he claimed.

Meanwhile, GPs are to be warned they will lose thousands of existing patients unless they sign the new contract agreeing to provide free care to under-sixes.

Parents whose children under six currently have a medical card or GP visit card will have to find a new doctor if their existing GP refuses to sign up.

The move is set to incense GPs who currently have contracts with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide care to around 166,000 children in this age group who have a medical card or GP visit card.

The Department of Health confirmed last night that the new under-sixes contract, bringing another 237,000 under sixes into the free GP visit net, will overtake all other existing agreements for this age group.

GPs who resist signing face a massive drop in State income. If parents want their child to be treated for free they have to go to a GP who has signed the new contract.

Existing agreements, which see the GPs paid a State fee for care of the children, will no longer be valid from July.

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