Monday 19 March 2018

Cost of GP visits vary from €30 to €80 as doctors 'set price they need'

Sinead Fox with Ciaran, Cathal and Laoise.
Sinead Fox with Ciaran, Cathal and Laoise.

Aideen Sheehan and Michael Staines

The cost of seeing a GP varies countrywide from just €30 to as much as €80.

A survey by the Irish Independent of more than 100 surgeries nationwide reveals massive discrepancies in the price of a consultation.

The average price countrywide of seeing a GP was €49, with 60pc of practices charging either €50 or €55.

In Dublin, meanwhile, the average price was €57, with several practices charging as much as €65. Leitrim was the cheapest with an average cost of €37, and in Donegal and Clare it was €40 on average.

The highest price we found was in Co Westmeath, where the Bellview Clinic charges €80 for an initial consultation with a new patient, though its standard charge after that is €55 per visit.

That clinic also sought a €50 deposit just to make an appointment for a first-time visit.

A spokesperson for Bellview Clinic said that its €80 initial fee included 30 minutes with a doctor, and 30 minutes with a nurse to take a full medical history and blood tests of the new patient.

They added that a deposit was taken because of the length of time allocated.

Three GPs in our survey charged just €30 for a consultation.

They were Dr John McCrohan in Swinford, Co Mayo; Drumshanbo Health Centre, in Co Leitrim; and the Health Centre in Swanlinbar, Co Cavan.

Dr John McCrohan said his €30 consultation charge was "grossly out of date" as he had not raised it in 12 years. "I introduced that charge when we switched to the euro and I haven't changed it since. I didn't raise it during the boom, and then when the economic situation deteriorated I didn't feel I could," he said.

However, he does not believe other doctors charge too much for their services.

"I would reckon that people set the price they need. If someone is charging €50, that probably reflects their practice costs," he said.

Dr Roland Ling, of Old Bawn in Tallaght, who charges €65, said he offers a same-day service with long consultations and is contactable 24 hours a day.

Dr Maura Stafford, of Ballsbridge Medical Centre, in Dublin 4, who also charges €65 said she offered a good service and there were many practices in south Dublin charging that fee.

The Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI) said it was hard to understand why some doctors charged twice as much as others for a consultation.

CAI spokesman Dermott Jewell said: "Prices are still very high in many places and doctors really need to explain why that's the case. Some may put it down to rents, but the reality is that this is a very big burden for people.

"These high costs can be a big deterrent to getting medical care."

The Irish Medical Organisation said that it would be illegal for it to recommend fees.

"Each general practitioner charges what they deem to be an appropriate rate.

"Clearly costs will vary across the country and the knock-on effect of this is that you would expect fees to vary across the country also," a spokesperson said.

'It would put you off going until you're sure they need a doctor'

By Emma Jane Hade

Working mother Sinead Fox said that visits to doctors were one of the more significant costs of her family's household budget, and that they do "notice the dent" it can make.

The solicitor - who is mother to Ciaran (6), Cathal (4) and baby Laoise - said that it was very expensive for families to attend the doctor and she had paid up to €70 for a consultation in the past.

But she explained that she was lucky because her GP offers a discount for families.

"Our GP does do a scheme where if you have more than one family member being seen they give you a reduction, which is very welcome," the 38-year-old said.

"It is very expensive to go to the doctor. If you have to go, you will go. If your child is sick, that's your priority. It is a very significant cost.

"It would put you off going until you are sure that they actually need the doctor," she said, adding that this factor was often influenced by time considerations.

"I am lucky that we haven't had to make that difficult decision that a lot of families do."

The Co Wexford woman, who writes parenting blog 'Bumbles of Rice', said working parents were often forced to opt for the out-of-hours emergency doctor services due to time constraints, and these services could be significantly more expensive.

"I know people who have put off bringing their kids until after pay day. Or putting their GP on the credit card.

" It really does help that our GP gives significant reductions. One of our kids has asthma, so he needs his inhalers filled. So I'll double up that visit if somebody else is sick, that kind of thing helps," she added.

Irish Independent

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