Registration opens for free under six GP care... and the website crashes
Parents are unable to register their children for the free GP visit scheme today as the website is currently experiencing technical difficulties.
Irish parents were set to register their under-6s for the scheme, which will come into effect from July, this morning.
However, the webpage on which parents can check if their local GP is taking part in the scheme is currently showing an error message.
A spokesperson for the HSE told Independent.ie the 'temporary glitch' is as a result of a high volume of traffic and it is currently being worked on.
"We have had problems this morning due to the high volume of traffic while people try to register their children," she told Independent.ie.
"We have a team working on the issue at the moment."
Parents can access an alternative webpage here which will bring them directly to the registration system: https://www.pcrsonline.ie/portal/free-gp-care-web/pub
The spokesperson added that the webpage is 'live' and updates the list automatically as GPs register.
"Parents can now also search their local GP by their name and address, as opposed to their Local Health Offices" she added.
The online registration is for 270,000 under-sixes whose parents currently pay private fees. Parents can also register by post using a form downloadable from the same website.
There were 1,407 GPs signed up to the scheme on Friday - but they make up just 58pc of the 2,415 family doctors who already have medical card contracts. The GPs will get a capitation fee from the HSE per child.
If the rest of the doctors, including around 300 who have private practices, fail to sign up to the new contract, then many parents will have to travel for the free service. Take-up among doctors is lowest so far in south Tipperary. It is also slow in Louth, Dun Laoghaire, Limerick, west Cork, Kildare and west Wicklow.
There is no 100pc take-up yet by doctors in any county, but it has reached 94pc in Donegal and 90pc in Sligo/Leitrim.
One Wicklow GP said she was pressured into signing up to the scheme. Dr Ciara Kelly, who runs a practice in Greystones, said she signed up "under genuine duress".
"I work in a town where there are four GP practices, ours was the last to sign, and I would have held out longer except there was really no way of doing so and actually keeping my practice and my employees in a job," she told Newstalk.
She said she didn't care how much she earned under the scheme and believed her patients were going to be worse off.
Parents who log on to the website can check local GPs who have agreed to be part of the scheme and choose one. They will need to have a PPS number for their child and themselves.
Parents whose child will have their sixth birthday this July should also register as they will be covered until the end of the month.
Registration details are sent to the GP of choice, who must accept the child or children. Once the GP of choice has confirmed acceptance, a GP Visit Card will be issued to all eligible children within a few days.
If the GP is not accepting electronic registrations, the parent will be informed by email. They need to print the attachment to the email and bring it to the GP for them to complete the GP acceptance section.
Confirmation of acceptance is needed from the GP, and eligibililty starts only when this is received. The GP Visit Card does not cover the cost of medications or hospital charges. Children currently covered by a medical card or GP visit card are automatically registered.
The extension of free GP visits to the over-70s is not due to come into effect until August.