Families to suffer if GP scheme is derailed
Published 13/04/2015 | 02:30
There have been mixed views on the merits of free doctor care for children for quite some time. But it is reasonable to argue that it was, and is, a tangible step towards ending the two-tier health system with its major emphasis on ability to pay.
On that basis, Health Minister Leo Varadkar was entitled to be pleased with agreement in principle involving general practitioners on a range of care issues, including free GP care for children under six years of age. The Irish Medical Organisation, which represents the bulk of doctors, has welcomed the agreement. Both they and the Minister have said any details which give rise to concerns can be ironed out in the coming weeks.
But yesterday the leadership of the smaller doctors' group, the National Association of General Practitioners, declared against the agreement. This group say they represent 1,200 GPs and their stance brings additional uncertainty about a measure which has already been delayed several times since it was first announced in the Budget of October 2013.
At that stage we were told that free doctor care for children under six was part of a move to provide such care for the entire population. This in turn, we were told, would be a milestone on the road to universal health care - which would be free to everyone at point of delivery, and underpinned by mandatory health insurance.
This Government will be repeatedly reminded, as the next general election looms closer, that this removal of ability to pay as a determinant of who gets health care was its one "big idea". It was to happen over two government terms - but we were to see very significant moves towards it in this government term.
So, the emerging uncertainty about free doctor care for all children under six years is more than just a bit of "political untidiness". It could very well cause some families a deal of upset in the coming months.
The choice for some parents could be the tall order of finding a doctor who is signed up for the scheme or forking out to the family doctor who is not in the scheme. It is not an encouraging prospect.
Urgent need to train our young people
If it seems like back to the future, it may be because it is. At the height of the boom, we were desperately short of skilled workers. And, now that the economy is picking up again, signs are that we risk heading right back to the same problem all over again.
The first warning signs come to us today in reports that there is a shortage of trained mechanics. After eight years of a major downturn, garages and forecourts are busy once again and car sales are on the increase.
Some busy garages are vying with each other for skilled tradespeople. Others are contemplating bringing in skilled people from outside the country at a time when one in 10 workers are still unemployed.
A big part of the problem here has been the neglect of the traditional apprentice schemes which have, for various reasons over the years, fallen victim to neglect. We have too few apprenticeships and emerging efforts to address the problem have a considerable way to go.
It was big news early this year when several State bodies announced their first apprenticeship schemes in many years. We need to see urgent action on State plans to train 3,000 apprentices this year.