Free GP care for under six-year-olds moves step closer
THE Government's controversial proposal to introduce free GP care for all under-sixes has moved a step closer following a signal from the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) that it will consider entering talks on the plan.
The likelihood of talks between the doctors' union and officials getting under way shortly has increased following the settlement of a High Court case.
It follows an undertaking agreed in the High Court between the IMO and the Competition Authority over the extent to which the union can represent its members.
It confirms the power of Health Minister James Reilly to set the fee paid to doctors for medical card or other work they are contracted to perform. The union had hoped the case would allow it the ability to negotiate fees along with other aspects of the under-six or other medical card contracts offered to them.
As part of the undertaking, the IMO has also agreed not to organise or recommend the collective withdrawal of services or boycotts by its GP members in a dispute over fees.
The case was sparked by an instruction by the IMO to its GP members last year to withdraw some duties following a reduction in medical card fees – a move the Competition Authority said breached the law.
Both sides were claiming to be winners yesterday, with the IMO saying the outcome acknowledged "its right to engage with the Minister for Health or the HSE in respect of the scope and content and the resources allocated to – and fees payable in respect of – publicly-funded contracts for GPs."
GP spokesman Dr Ray Walley said: "These agreements confirm that the IMO is entitled to communicate with and, importantly, to discuss proposed agreements with our members and to freely express our opinions on those proposals."