Parents face free GP care lottery
The free GP care for under-sixes has become a lottery, with parents in some areas of the country still finding it difficult to register their child with a nearby doctor.
Although 91pc of GPs have signed up nationally, some areas do not have enough participating doctors locally to cope with all the children whose parents want to avail of the free service.
For example, in Dún Laoghaire, there are still 20 out of the 75 local doctors who are not in the scheme and many who have joined are full up to the point where they cannot take on any new patients from other surgeries.
The Stillorgan Medical Centre in Dublin, which has joined the scheme, is one of several practices only taking on the under-sixes from their own patients.
They have had to tell other parents, from non-participating surgeries, that they cannot register them.
Other areas where substantial numbers of GPs have not signed up include Kildare and west Wicklow, where 14 of the 79 family doctors are not participating.
In the Cork-south Lee area, 13 of the 133 doctors are not signed up and in north Dublin 14 doctors out of 120 are outside the scheme.
A spokesperson for the HSE said: "A GP may decide not to accept an under-sixes registration on to their panel. In such circumstances, the HSE advises parents or guardians to select an alternative GP."
But many parents are struggling to find an alternative because other surgeries are full.
Dr Stephen Murphy is a GP in Cabinteely, south Dublin, whose practice has not signed up to the scheme and still charges a private fee. He said: "Parents are still registering their children with our practice, even though we have made it perfectly clear that we have not joined the scheme."
Dr Murphy, who is on the executive of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), said the scheme was based on a "despicable contract" and there were a lot of issues surrounding it with which doctors were unhappy.
New mother Nicola Fitzgerald was disappointed to learn that her GP has opted not to sign up to the scheme offering free medical care to children under the age of six.
The 39-year-old welcomed her first child Elizabeth to the world nine weeks ago, and discovered her regular doctor had not signed up to the Government scheme when she recently visited for her baby’s six-week check up.
Nicola, who works in tourism, opted to move her daughter to a different surgery that has signed up to the scheme – and was lucky to find one.
“When we went for the six-week check to our doctors, I asked them about it then because we couldn’t find their name on the list that was sent around. They said ‘no’, that they weren’t,” the south Dublin resident said.
“We would have preferred to stay with them but their reasons for not doing it was that it is a very small practice and they wouldn’t have been able to take on extra patients.
“We have moved Elizabeth, I haven’t moved myself,” she added.