Under-six free GP care to get go-ahead
THE Government will today approve plans for free GP care for children under six years – but there are serious doubts about it being in operation by the target date of this summer.
The legislation for the new scheme is expected to be endorsed at a special cabinet meeting being held ahead of the Easter break. It will then be passed through the Dail and Seanad as quickly as possibly but it still faces a wall of opposition from doctors throughout the country.
Junior Health Minister Alex White urged the doctors to engage in discussions on the details of how the system will work.
He said he appreciated that many family doctors, in common with most groups across the country, had to cope with rising costs and shrinking incomes.
"It is my earnest wish to proceed by agreement with doctors in this matter. I believe that reaction to aspects of the draft contract has been premature and we can engage in discussions on allaying doctors' concerns," the Minister told the Irish Independent.
The idea was billed as a Labour Party 'gain' in the last Budget and it is also a staging post on bigger plans for health reforms. The proposal is expected to cost €37m in 2014 but much more than that in a full year.
Mr White has rejected arguments from doctors that he will try to impose the scheme 'by diktat'.
Sources close to the process say that progress is hampered by some tensions between the two groups representing doctors, the Irish Medical Organisation, and the National Association of General Practitioners.
Another obstacle is posed by competition law which hampers doctors with individual health service contracts engaging in collective negotiations and which is the subject of a High Court case at present.