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Family doctors lashed in storm over child fees

GPs here are charging parents on the double if they bring two children to the same consultation.

Family rates are left up to each doctor's discretion -- a practice that has been slammed by consumer and patient groups.

Many cash-strapped parents are being forced to shell out an average of €100 in GP fees if they bring more than one sick child to be examined.

Consumer and patient groups say they have had complaints from parents who have been charged the full consultation fee for each individual child when they have brought sick children to the doctor.

Stephen McMahon, of the Irish Patients' Association, said that for parents, "the issue is that if every child is going to be charged separately, then they should know that going into the consultation to give them the opportunity to shop around".







Pressure

"There are some developments in this area. There is competition coming into the market in this area, with the introduction of care plans," he added.

"I think we are going to see, with the current climate, that everybody is operating under, there will be more pressure on to get more reasonable rates," he said.

"We would say that these costs should be posted so that parents can make decisions. Many parents have huge overheads, with creche fees up to a thousand a month and then you have medical costs on top of that."

Meanwhile, the Irish Consumers' Association has called on GPs to consider introducing family consultation rates.

Its CEO, Dermott Jewell, said that several children can often be sick in a family at the same time due to the spread of illness.

If parents then have to pay on the double or the triple for a GP consultation for the same visit, it works out very expensive, and that's without the cost of prescriptions the children may need, or themselves, he pointed out. However, he said that doctors cannot be compelled to offer a family consultation rate. "It's at their own discretion, because it's a market economy, so we can't dictate prices."







Mr Jewell said that people have contacted the Irish Consumers' Association about the issue of being charged individually per child at the same visit.

"We say we do appreciate very much the difficulty you are having, and also how difficult it is to suddenly decide to go to a different doctor."

hnews@herald.ie


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