Thursday 22 February 2018

GPs resign from HSE care teams in protest over €30m cut to fees

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

MANY GPs who have suffered a major cut in fees for treating medical card holders are to resign from primary care teams in protest.

This will mean they will no longer attend meetings with neighbouring health professionals, such as public health nurses and social workers, to discuss patients.

These meetings are convened to allow professionals who operate from different premises but are part of one team to discuss certain patients and work out the best care plan for them.

A letter sent to GPs in the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said the members of its 18-strong GP committee had taken the decision in the interests of patient safety.

They could no longer "continue to stretch their already inadequate resources to this non-contracted work".

It is expected that many other GPs will now follow with similar action.

The move follows growing anger at the cuts, which will amount to over €30m in a year, hitting their fees for a range of services including vaccinations and the care of older patients.

Dr Ray Walley, spokesman for GPs in the IMO, said the meetings were a "charade" constructed by the HSE, which family doctors were no longer willing to participate in.

He said patients would not suffer as a result of the withdrawal. Doctors could still liaise with other health workers over the phone, he added.

CONCERNED

The letter said the IMO had written to Health Minister James Reilly "seeking the rationale behind the cuts".

However, Eamon Timmins, spokesman for Age Action Ireland, said he would be concerned at any action that would affect the good work of the primary care teams.

"Older people are regular users of GP services and they benefit from a range of professionals who work to keep them in their homes," he said.

Meanwhile, the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) has warned that talented GPs are choosing to emigrate rather than suffer another erosion in income, which will make their practice non-viable.

"Established GPs are emigrating with their families. These talented doctors wish to deliver care to their patients at the highest standards as per their training but are being frustrated by the erosion of the viability of practice," said an ICGP spokesman.

Irish Independent

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