Friday 23 February 2018

'Flat-fee' GP visit firm to open 15 new clinics after success of pilot

Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

A new healthcare enterprise, which claims to help families save €360 a year in costly GP visits, is preparing to expand its Dublin-based business with 15 new clinics nationwide over the next four years.

Irish Private Medical Centres (IPMC), which was set up in October, allows members to visit a GP as often as they want for a monthly fee of €30 for a family of five or €10 a month for individual members over the age of 55. IPMC was set up last October by a former mortgage broker from Blackrock and two friends from the fitness industry and has enrolled 2,500 members.

With GP fees running at €40 to €70 a visit, the company's pilot clinic in Sandyford, Dublin, has been especially popular with young families previously forced to shell out large sums on repeated doctor visits for ailment-prone infants.

On this basis, the average family with a monthly trip to their GP can save €360 a year, the firm claims.

Tristan Healy who heads up IPMC, cites "rip-off" GP costs as the main source of the company's fast-growing business.

"While the costs of professions such as solicitors and accountants have come down since the recession, doctors not only seem to have succeeded in maintaining their fees at boom-era levels, but in some cases they have raised them," he said.

Shortage

"A recently joined member told me their GP had increased the cost of each visit from €60 to €65 without explanation.

"There is a shortage of GPs at the moment, which means they can continue to up their fees while at the same time keeping their waiting rooms full. Our members are telling us that they had formerly been waiting up to two hours to see the doctor," Mr Healy added.

"The increasing cost of private health insurance has also undoubtedly been a major influence in getting patients to sign up with us.

"We're not a replacement for health insurance but those who can no longer afford it want a scheme that can help them put their mind at rest. They can pay monthly by direct debit or by the year and thus control their GP medical costs."

As well as its founders, Mr Healy, Stephen Wade and David Howard -- all in their 30s -- IPMC also employs a panel of three doctors, a practice nurse and locum doctors. Both Mr Wade and Mr Howard come from the fitness industry, where subscription membership schemes are the norm.

At the current rate of growth, the firm -- based in the Beacon South Quarter -- will end its first year with a turnover of €500,000 and should achieve its projected annual target of €1m by the end of its second year.

IPMC is planning to open a second clinic on Dublin's northside in July, followed by further outlets next year in west Dublin, Wicklow, Cork city and Galway.

Irish Independent

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