Free care for under sixes may be last straw for GPs
There is a huge groundswell of anger among GPs at their treatment by the Department of Health and, among other things, the proposal by the minister Dr James Reilly to introduce free GP care for children under six.
This proposal and 'savage' cuts in the healthcare sector, including €160m removed from the general practice area by the current Government as part of the 'financial measures in the public interest', have led to a number of packed 'town hall' meetings of doctors in Cork, Limerick, Tralee, Galway, Mayo and Donegal, culminating with a meeting in Dublin last night. The doctors argue that while general practice receives less than 3pc of the overall health budget, 95pc of patient contact every day is with a general practitioner. They also claim that if the current regime continues, more than 100 GP surgeries face closure and many more face financial ruin.
"The most perverse aspect of the Government's desire to reform primary care is that it is effectively dismantling the only part of the healthcare system that is actually working efficiently," said Dr Stephen Murphy, chairman of the organising committee of last night's meeting. The government approach to reform is, he said, "absolutely destructive"; while according to Dr Chris Goody, of the National Association of General Practitioners, it is one of survival. "Even if the public had little sympathy for the GPs' plight, there is a much bigger issue of protecting patients and ensuring that the one part of our health service that had worked is not driven into the ground by one-size-fits-all policies."
Dr Goody says that the Health Minister has no control over where the taxpayers' money goes. "Cuts are being applied to every sector and rather than the money following the patient, the money is staying exactly where it was in relative terms." This is an obvious reference to the number of administrators rather than frontline staff in our health service.
Very few people would argue that GPs are working flat out – in fact patients often feel that they are in a revolving door, especially in busy city practices. In rural Ireland GPs are expected to cater for vast areas and there is little doubt that many are finding their working conditions very difficult. GPs have warned that waiting lists will have to be introduced for surgeries, something that most people will find unthinkable at a time when A&E and outpatients services in hospitals are already at breaking point.
EMOTIONAL TIMEBOMB OF DONOR PARENTS NEEDS TO BE DEFUSED
Sperm and egg donors are not people we regard as 'parents' in the ordinary course of events but those who donate their sperm or eggs are playing an increasing role in the birth of children. The secrecy surrounding one or both parents has been a traumatic and long-lasting legacy of adoption. In this, the State colluded by going to great lengths to ensure that children could not find out who their biological fathers and mothers were.
Much has changed in recent years, but this attitude of secrecy still pervades official thinking. An Oireachtas Dail committee discussing the Children & Family Relationships Bill 2014 has been told by Geoffrey Shannon, a lawyer and special rapporteur for children, that it was the view of the Law Society that the legislation should provide for a child to know the identity of the sperm or egg donor. Mr Shannon said that such a right is enshrined in several international human rights documents, but agreed it would also compromise the anonymity of those who donate to fertility clinics.
Mr Shannon said that in the future, donors could potentially face requests from an offspring they have never met or knew existed. There are further legal ramifications that have yet to be teased out, but certainly if we want to avoid the heartache that many adoptees went through in the past then there should be clear guidelines about the identity of donors and the rights of children to know the identity of their biological parents. It is a notoriously difficult area to regulate but it is an emotional timebomb that needs to be defused so it doesn't come back to haunt future generations the way the secrecy surrounding adoption did.