GPs urged not to sign up for free U-6 scheme
A doctors' union has called on GPs to refuse to sign the under-six scheme contract with the State, regardless of the remuneration offered.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar's representative has dismissed reports that GPs would be offered a State fee of €100 per child with the under-six scheme.
The long-promised scheme, which will see children under the age of six years old receive free GP care, is expected to be in place in the coming months.
A spokesman for Health Minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday the care plan would also see enhanced services for children with asthma - but he added reports that GPs will be offered an annual State fee of around €100 per child are unfounded.
Children will also have their weight checked by their family doctor at the age of two and later when they are five years old, the representative said.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the Department of Health are continuing talks on the contract doctors will be asked to sign to provide the service.
The spokesman said the objective is to have the under-six service in place in the coming months, subject to the conclusion of the present discussions and the completion of a fee-setting process.
Some €25m has been set aside for the scheme. However, the other doctors' union, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) - who are not in the talks - repeated their opposition to the scheme saying it believes that providing care to people with significant medical and financial need must be given funding priority.
It called on GPs to refuse to sign the contract, regardless of the remuneration offered.
Chairman Dr Andy Jordan, a Tallaght-based GP, said: "To invest €25m into providing free GP visits to a healthy child under-six while denying a medical card to an eight-year-old with cancer is simply unjust.
"GPs will not support a scheme which compounds the appalling inequities of our dysfunctional health system. The needs of the most vulnerable must be addressed first."
He said that a critical mass of GPs will be required to sign up to the under-six scheme in order for it to proceed. The NAGP is urging member and non-member GPs to show a "collective show of strength".
"This is our opportunity to fight for our vulnerable patients and our crumbling general practice services.
"The under-sixes must be postponed. The focus needs to be placed on a complete reform of existing general practice services and the medical card scheme," Dr Jordan said.
Meanwhile, nurses yesterday won their fight to reduce their registration fee from €150 to €100 following a board meeting by their regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland.
Nurses had protested at the €50 hike this year which the regulator said was necessary if it was to carry out all its functions.
The fee will not now be raised in 2015 and a consultation process will take place.