DOCTORS were paid almost €30m of taxpayers' money for issuing sick certs for workers last year.
A GP receives almost €8.25 from the Department of Social Protection for each medical certificate they issue.
Dublin South East Labour TD Kevin Humphreys obtained the information through a series of parliamentary questions and follow-up queries with the department.
Last night, he called for the payments to be scrapped.
Mr Humphreys called on Social Protection Minister Joan Burton to get rid of the medical payments and use the funds to protect frontline welfare payments such as the dole. "This payment, which mainly goes to GPs and hospital interns, should be scrapped as it is an area where the minister can reduce expenditure whilst protecting frontline payments," the TD said.
There are two types of sick certs -- first and final medical certs (MC1) and intermediate certs, called MC2s.
The Department of Social Protection is processing an average of more than 55,000 certs a week, or an annual total of nearly three million.
This breaks down into an average of 5,000 MC1s and 50,000 MC2s.
Last year, the top payment of €83,000 went to a practice with 13 doctors, which is equivalent to 9,300 certs -- an average of 180 certs a week. "This is an unnecessary top -up payment to doctors that we can no longer afford," Mr Humphreys said.
"This payment to doctors is on top of the €50 or more a patient pays for a consultation. As hard-pressed families know, the price of visiting your doctor has not come down but they continue to receive this top-up from the State.
"This payment should be scrapped and the savings used to protect social welfare payments to the most vulnerable in our society. Cuts in spending should be carried by those who can most afford it."
The revelations come after an Irish Independent investigation last month found that more than 11,000 people had state illness benefits stopped last year after medical checks found they were fit to work.
It led the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) body to admit that there were major problems with the ease with which workers were able to get medical certificates.