Friday 24 November 2017

GP fees row puts primary care plan at risk

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

ALMOST 200 GPs are refusing to co-operate with government plans to deliver more health services locally rather than through hospitals -- with some saying it's because their fees have already been cut.

The Coalition has made primary care one of the central planks of its health policy, with junior minister Roisin Shortall given responsibility for the area.

The plan is intended to take services away from hospitals and provide a network of one-stop health shops, with professionals -- such as a GPs, physiotherapists and social workers -- working together.

But documents provided by the HSE to the Dail Public Accounts Committee yesterday show that 95 GPs are not engaging at all with primary care teams.

A further 84 GPs are not taking part in meetings with other health professionals, which are essential to the scheme.

There are also another 75 primary care teams where GPs are engaged but are classified as "not progressing".

In total, there are 425 primary care teams with 1,592 GPs taking part.

The HSE admits this is well behind targets, even though GPs aren't contractually obliged to take part in the scheme.

Mayo GPs said they were "dissatisfied with HSE cuts in GP fees, etc", with doctors in Kildare and west Wicklow saying they weren't getting paid for attending meetings.

In Meath, two GPs were not participating because of a reduction in funding for services already being provided.

Fine Gael Wicklow TD Simon Harris brought up the issue when questioning HSE officials at yesterday's PAC meeting and said he was dismayed "that this ambitious process of reform" was being held up by "a spat over GP fees".

HSE chief executive Cathal Magee admitted the "ambitious" primary care strategy, launched in 2001, had only delivered on half its targets,

Mr Magee said it was intended that there would be incremental funding of €650m, but the reality was that investment had not been delivered.

Meanwhile, numerous TDs raised the delay in getting medical cards issued.

HSE officials said 85pc of all applications are processed within 15 days of being received, and said they had transferred all medical card operations to Finglas last summer, and were still grappling with the change.

However, Mr Magee said the HSE would look at the issue and report back to the PAC.

Irish Independent

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