Medical card GPs must see U6s for free out-of-hours
GPs with a panel of medical card patients cannot charge fees to see a child under six out-of-hours - even if they have not signed up to the new free visit scheme.
The HSE sought to clarify the situation following confusion yesterday about what happens when a GP sees a child at nights or at weekends.
There are some 2,700 GPs who have medical card contracts already, with many of these operating in local co-ops to provide out-of-hours care.
There are estimated to be some 300 GPs in exclusively private practice.
These GPs have no existing medical card contract and can charge parents of children aged under six - even if they see them while working in an out-of-hours co-op. However, few GPs in solely private practice, most of whom work part-time or are semi-retired, are believed to be in such co-ops.
The free GP visits for under-sixes scheme finally got underway yesterday. Many surgeries reported no influx in young patients yet, with just 87,000 out of 270,000 children registered so far.
The HSE said the lowest take-up remains in south Tipperary where a large group of family doctors gathered at a meeting yesterday to voice their on-going opposition to the scheme.
Dr Lucia Gannon, a GP in Killenaule, said she is seeing a gradual erosion in the quality of service for patients.
She said the under-sixes scheme will do more harm than good because it will further dilute the service to sick patients.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar also confirmed that all children under 18 diagnosed with cancer will get a full medical card automatically for five years.