GPs urged not to sign up to Leo's under-6s plans
Doctors are on a collision course with Health Minister Leo Varadkar over his plans for free GP care for children under six.
The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has called on the State's 2,300 GPs to refuse to sign any contract regarding the Government's proposed scheme.
However, Mr Varadkar said yesterday he is confident that when the time comes, most GPs will sign up.
"GPs are self-employed contractors and it will be up to each GP to decide for themselves whether they want to sign up and provide this new enhanced primary care service," he said.
"They have called for GPs not to sign up to a contract which they haven't even seen yet."
The NAGP says that with hundreds of patients on trolleys in hospitals every day and medical cards being removed from cancer patients, it is "morally reprehensible" to invest scarce public funds in providing free care to any group that does not have a genuine medical or financial need.
"A northside Dubliner will die seven years earlier than his southside neighbour, yet the southside has one GP for every 1,600 people while the northside has one GP for every 3,000," said Dr Michael McConville, a member of the NAGP's national council.
"It is our belief that rural and deprived inner-city practices will effectively cease within the next five to 10 years."
The HSE has set aside €25m in this year's budget for free GP care for under-sixes.
However, Tallaght GP and NAGP chairman Dr Andrew Jordan said it was the wrong way to allocate funding.
"This initiative is about giving medical cards to people who are in some cases well off. We are bound to stick up for our patients and make sure resources go in the right direction," he said.
"There are children and adults with sometimes terminal conditions who are borderline over the income limits and can't get a medical card."
Mr Varadkar said that taking the first concrete steps to universal healthcare by extending GP services without fees to the under-sixes is one of his priorities.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) is in negotiations with the Department of Health and the HSE on both an under-six contract as well as a wider new GP contract.