GPs to get under-sixes contracts this week
The country's 2,500 family doctors are this week expected to be issued with new contracts which would see them sign up to give free GP visits for all children under six.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said the aim is to have the scheme in place by July - but it is yet unclear how many overloaded GPs will agree to sign up in return for a State fee of €125 a year per child.
It will work out at around €216 a child to the GP annually, when additions, such as financial supports to hire nurses and pension payments, are taken into account.
Other separate top-ups are being offered to the doctor for reviewing children who suffer from asthma.
Parents will still have to pay for their child's medicine as well as reports which they may need their GP to fill out for social services, for instance.
GPs who do not sign up to take on the 270,000 children, whose parents currently pay private fees, risk losing HSE contracts that cover children in this age group who are covered by a medical card or GP card.
The National Association of General Practitioners - which represents over 1,200 GPs and is opposed to the scheme - is threatening legal action if contracts are removed.
The Irish Medical Organisation said that the under-sixes scheme was a first step towards more investment in GP services. Most GPs are holding out on making a decision until they see the fine print of the contract.
Free GP care is also to be introduced for the over-70s in July.