Plan to extend free GP care children is "plain politics", says doctor
The Government's plan to extend free GP care for young children until they are 12 years old is "plain politics", according to a doctor.
Dr Padraig McGarry, a GP in the Midlands town of Longford, believes that the announcement that the free GP care programme for under sixes will be extended to children up the age of 12 is using health "as political currency".
"We first heard of this news as a rumour around 9.30am yesterday morning. We had no knowledge that it was going to be announced.
"We certainly had no discussions with the Department of Health in relation to it," Dr McGarry said.
Dr McGarry runs a practice in a medical centre in Longford town and there are currently 1,200 patients registered with his service.
He is also the chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation's GP committee.
"I am a little disappointed that politicians would use health as political currency - and, essentially, that is what this is," he said last night.
"Our approach and policy is that we would roll out medical cards to those based on income thresholds and medical needs as opposed to age cohorts."
Dr McGarry joined forces with two other GPs just over a decade ago and built a self-funded primary care centre in Longford, which he described as a "forerunner" of its kind.
The rural doctor said the only reason GPs agreed to the introduction of the scheme for under sixes, which was announced in last year's Budget, was on the basis that a new GP contract for medical cards and doctor visit cards would be agreed.
However, he warned that the negotiations are ongoing, which may inhibit the Health Minister's plan to roll this out to all children under the age of 12.
"We believe you have to negotiate a full contract before you start rolling out the U12s contract, the extension to it. At the moment they are not included under the present cohort of patients who have medical cards," he stated.
"But we believe - and our understanding is - that we are going to negotiate a full contract fit-for-purpose for what we presently have - as opposed to extending it to those without negotiations first," he added.