Wednesday 12 December 2018

Donohoe gives 'dressing down' to senators over GP contract

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe gave a "severe dressing down" to Fine Gael senators who called for GP contract negotiations to be advanced at a parliamentary party meeting.

Senators were left shocked by the "vicious slap down" administered by Mr Donohoe after they tabled a motion seeking better pay and conditions for doctors at Fine Gael's weekly meeting.

One senator said they "got it in the neck" from the Minister for raising concerns they are receiving from doctors in their constituencies. "I've never seen him like this before, he really went for the senators," one source said.

Senators and TDs have been subjected to intense lobbying from GPs seeking to have their pay and conditions improved. State fees paid to GPs were dramatically reduced during the years of austerity budget cuts and have yet to be restored.

The group of Fine Gael senators tabled a motion calling for Mr Donohoe and Minister for Health Simon Harris to advance GP contract negotiations and restore payments to doctors which were removed during the financial crash.

Mr Donohoe took exception to the demand and said the parliamentary party room was not the place to negotiate pay for doctors or any other public sector worker.

A source said the minister insisted he would not be "giving away taxpayers' money as a gesture of goodwill" because a motion is tabled at a parliamentary party meeting.

"He asked the senators if they will be looking for payments for pharmacists if they lobby them next week," another source said.

The motion was backed by all Fine Gael senators but the proposal was led by Cork Senator Colm Burke. Senator James Reilly, who is a practising GP, and Cork Senator Tim Lombard, also spoke in favour of the motion.

Last Tuesday, Minister Harris brought a memo to Cabinet noting that formal GP contract negotiations will resume this month. The primary focus of the talks will be on expanding services provided by GPs. He also said a review of fees paid to GPs for current and new services will be commenced.

Sunday Independent

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