Less than 8pc of family GPs say they will sign up for free child visits
Just 81 GPs who were surveyed in the last week say they will sign up to Government proposals to give free visits to children under six.
The survey of 1,056 family doctors was carried out by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), the new doctors' union, which has branded the plan unethical.
Around 2,400 GPs will be asked to agree to provide the free visits to all 240,000 under-sixes, regardless of family income, by the end of the summer. It comes as the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which has been negotiating the contract since last autumn with the Department of Health, will have to inform its members on the draft proposals at its annual conference later this week.
The fact that it is proposed to introduce it mid-year means that the €25m set aside for the scheme in 2015, including an annual capitation fee, extra incentives for checking a child's weight or providing asthma care, may allow for higher than normal payments.
A GP currently gets nearly €75 a year under the medical card and GP visit card scheme for a child of this age, regardless of the number of visits made.
There would have to be some significant top-ups to that on offer if doctors are to be encouraged to sign up to the free care for all under-sixes scheme.
If the annual capitation fee is around €100, it would still work out at €14 each time the doctors saw a child, who could be expected to visit around six times a year. Dublin GP Dr William Behan said: "This compares to an Irish Water call-out charge to fix a leak of €188 in office hours and €282 otherwise."
A spokesman for the IMO said that talks on the contract are continuing. Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said he hopes the free GP care for under-sixes will be in place by the summer.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Talks on the contract for universal GP care for under-sixes are at an advanced stage. The NAGP survey was conducted in advance of the agreement of an actual contract. It will be a matter for each individual GP to decide, when offered finalised contractual terms by the HSE, whether to accept these."
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar warned yesterday he may invoke legislation allowing him to cut the price of some medicines by June unless pharmaceutical companies do so before then.
The patented drugs are the most profitable for pharmaceutical companies but he wants cuts in some of these medicines which would bring them into line with European prices.
He does not want to wait until the current three-year agreement on drugs prices expires later this year.