Friday 15 December 2017

Free GP care bill gets cool reception

Minister for Health James Reilly
Minister for Health James Reilly

Eilish O'Regan and John Downing

Doctors have warned parents that government plans to introduce free GP care for under-sixes by this summer are "unachievable".

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) was commenting after the Cabinet approved the proposed legislation to underpin the measure which aims to provide free GP care to 240,000 children.

Junior Health Minister Alex White welcomed the development, saying he is to bring the Health (General Practitioners Service) Bill 2014 to the Oireachtas shortly.

And the Government extended a new invitation to GPs to engage in talks on free doctor care for children under six years of age.

But it still faces huge opposition from doctors raising continued doubt about meeting an introduction deadline of this July.

So far the two organisations representing doctors have not even managed to agree ground rules for discussions.

Matters are compounded by a legal case before the High Court in which the Competition Authority questions the doctors' right to collectively negotiate as individual contract holders.

But Mr White said 240,000 children across Ireland will benefit from the policy and the Government had provided €37m in extra funding to meet the cost.

"This is really good news for young families and it represents a significant milestone in the reform of our health services," he said.

Adding he would again contact the doctors' groups with new proposals for initiating talks.

A draft contract he launched last January has been denounced by family doctors who say many of them are struggling to keep their practices going.

The IMO has already rejected several invitations to talks on the contract despite repeated efforts.

Irish Independent

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