No out-of-hours charges for under sixes with GP co-ops
Children under six will not be charged in the evenings and weekends if they are seen by a doctor who is part of the out-of-hours GP co-ops across the country, it was confirmed yesterday.
The service, due to come into effect from July as part of the planned free GP visits for under-sixes scheme, will mean that even doctors who have not signed up will not charge, said Dr Ken Egan, chairman of the National Association of GP Co-operatives.
It will mean parents of under-sixes will be spared charges of up to €90 for a consultation or as much as €100 for a home visit, depending on where they live in the country.
Dr Egan, a GP in Mayo, told the Irish Independent that under an agreement confirmed with the Health Service Executive (HSE), it will pay the doctors a regular fee of around €43.
"Around 20pc of the workload of the GP co-ops is made up of children under six. We anticipate the scheme will increase that, so we will need additional funding for support staff," he said. It comes as the HSE extended yesterday's deadline for GPs to sign the new contract agreeing to free GP visits to June 5.
A High Court case by Co Clare GP Dr Yvonne Williams will be heard tomorrow asking that the scheme be deferred to allow the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) to be part of negotiations.
Dr Williams , who objects to the under-sixes scheme, said if the HSE goes ahead with its threat to cancel her existing medical and GP contracts for this age group, she may have to close her surgery.
But the HSE said yesterday the cancellation of any contracts will not go ahead "for the summer period".
It means children under six currently covered by a medical card or GP care can stay with their GP even if the doctor has not signed the new contract.
It said it will begin a registration process early next month to allow parents pick a GP of their choice.
The HSE will publish a list of all GPs who have signed contracts to provide the free visits to under-sixes.
It did not respond to requests yesterday to state how many have joined so far.
The NAGP said it believed the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission is wrong in taking issue, as the concerns doctors have with free GP care are "ethical" concerns.
The Irish Medical Organisation said that the under-sixes contract is temporary and will have to be reviewed at the latest by August of next year.