Sunday 26 January 2020

Free GP care for under-13s criticised as 'election ploy' by doctors


Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture: Collins
Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture: Collins
Mícheál Ó Scannáil

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

Doctors have dismissed Government approval of free GP care for all children aged under 13 as an election gambit, as the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said no agreement had been made with it.

The Government announced yesterday Health Minister Simon Harris had received approval to extend free GP care to all children under 13, beginning with those aged six and seven in 2020.

However, the IMO said the basis on which free GP care will be introduced for under-13s has not been agreed between it and the Government.

It said there were "serious question marks" about the viability of any such policy given the "intense pressure already faced by GPs".

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Speaking to the Irish Independent, Peter Harrington, a GP in Gorey, Co Wexford, described extending free care to under-13s as a "pre-election policy".

He said taxpayers' money would be better spent allowing over-65s, "who actually have illnesses", free GP care.

"In a nutshell, this is old policy and it's being re-offered to the public because it's election time," he said.

"But there have been no negotiations around this.

"I think it's a really awful way for a very strapped health service to spend its money smartly, which we seem to refuse to do. It's not particularly good for the taxpayer."

Another major concern for GPs is the strain that is put on their service by unnecessary visits by those who do not have to pay.

Brian O'Doherty, who also works as a GP in Gorey, said a heavy workload was making medicine in Ireland an unattractive job prospect. Allowing more free care will only compound the problem.

"With the under-sixes, the work load increased exponentially - an increase of 20pc or 30pc on visitation rates.

"Some of the practices have had to close, because we just can't manage them."

Irish Independent

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