The controversy over GPs charging medical card holders – who are entitled to free care – for some blood tests continues to rage, despite complaints being made to the HSE.
In a new parliamentary reply to Deputy Martin Heydon, the Junior Health Minister Alex White said that as part of their contract for treating medical card holders, doctors were not to demand or accept any payment or consideration whatsoever in reward for services provided by him/her.
"In circumstances where the taking of blood is necessary to either (a) assist in the process of diagnosing a patient or (b) monitor a diagnosed condition, the GP may not charge that patient if they are eligible for free services."
He said the HSE had written to GP contract holders and clarified the position in relation to this matter and has also communicated its position to the Irish Medical Organisation.
"Any alleged instances of eligible patients being requested to pay for a routine service of this nature from their own limited resources is viewed as a serious matter by the HSE and the department.
"I have been advised by the HSE that its Local Health Offices will fully investigate any reported incidents of eligible patients being charged for blood test services which form part of the investigation and necessary treatment of patients' symptoms or conditions.
"In such cases where a medical card holder or a GP-visit card holder has been inappropriately charged for the taking of blood, the HSE will make deductions from those GPs' routine payments."