100,000 under-sixes not signed up for free GP visits
Nearly 100,000 children under six are still not signed up for free GP visits, despite the scheme being launched over two months ago.
Just 177,268 of the estimated 270,000 children eligible for the scheme have been registered, HSE figures revealed yesterday.
And about 7,000 of the 40,000 over-70s who were eligible for free GP visits from the beginning of August have yet to sign up. This is despite the HSE spending some €287,000 on external advertising and campaign material to promote the under-sixes scheme.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar insisted: "I have met a lot of families who are enthusiastic about the scheme and the feedback has been great.
"I also expect more families to sign up in the months ahead as the colder weather arrives, when kids need to go the GP most often. There's no urgency to sign up, but I would certainly encourage people to register with their GP of choice."
Some 188 GPs who are in the medical card scheme have also opted not to sign the contract to treat the under-sixes for free.
It comes as GPs operating co-ops, which provide cover after-hours, have warned they are finding it increasingly difficult to secure locum doctors to stand in for "red-eye" shifts.
Dr Ken Egan, chairman of the National Association of GP Co-operatives, said red tape was making it more difficult to get doctors from abroad to work here. There are also problems competing with the UK, where they can get better fee rates.
"The effect is that patients will not have access to GPs after-hours in some areas. They will have to attend their A&E instead. GPs have an increasing workload during the day and cannot do night duty as well," he added.
Meanwhile, the HSE has taken to the JobBridge scheme to hire an intern trainee psychologist on €50 a week in addition to their social welfare payment.
The intern will work at the Waterford Mental Health Services. The HSE has insisted that the trainee will not be doing the work of a qualified person but will be carrying out specific tasks under supervision. It will provide a stepping stone for them to progress to a job of full-time trainee.
The candidate has to have a masters in psychology.