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Doctors' group says free GP care for under-sixes deal is "medical apartheid"

The IMO President, meanwhile, warned of a “crisis of morale” in the health services.

Image: Shutterstock/Niyazz

A DOCTORS’ ASSOCIATION has rejected the GP contract that was recently agreed between the Department of Health and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), describing it as ‘medical apartheid’.

It was announced on Thursday that the IMO, HSE and Department of Health had struck a deal on free health care for under sixes.

But the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has stated that it doesn’t believe it is the most appropriate method for bringing in universal care. It wasn’t involved in the agreement between the department, the IMO and HSE.

The NAGP is expected to ballot its 1,200 members on the issue.

Emergency meeting

At an emergency meeting of the National Council of the NAGP earlier today, all 23 members of the Council voted to reject the under-sixes contract.

It “adamantly believes” that the under-sixes deal “does not serve the best interests of general practice or patients”.

Dr Andy Jordan, Chairman of the NAGP, said:

This deal amounts to nothing more than medical apartheid. It is motivated by election votes rather than real patient need. The mortality rate in children less than 18 years of age is 3.8/10,000 and the vast majority of those are caused by accidents not illness. At the same time we have 5,000 deaths per year in Ireland from cardiovascular disease but there is no money to provide free GP care to those patients.

He said the NAGP believes the proposal “will fuel the inequalities that already exist in our health service”.

The NAGP is calling on all GPs to collectively oppose the contract.

“The truth is that GPs cannot afford to sign this contract. The funding on offer will barely cover the cost of providing the service, which equates to an extra 4.5 million consultations per year,” Dr Jordan said.

There is, without doubt, a desperate need for investment in general practice but investment needs to be allocated to the areas where it is needed – rural practice, general practice in deprived urban areas, comprehensive chronic disease management, existing services which are grossly underfunded.
For the last five years GPs have had to sit back and accept more and more demand for less and less funding. That stops now. If we do not, as a group, stand together and oppose this scheme, we will be letting ourselves down and letting our patients down.

Crisis of morale

Meanwhile, the new IMO President, Ray Walley, warned of a “crisis of morale” in the health services, which is influencing the decisions of young doctors to emigrate for work abroad.

Dr Walley said that the IMO would begin a campaign immediately to prioritise the issue of health for the next General Election.

He added that he believed the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar “was a man with whom the IMO could work to advance change and make progress in the health services”.

He said the agreement reached on free GP care for under-sixes would herald a new engagement on health services reform, though he acknowledged it “is not perfect”.

It is up to individual GPs as to whether they want to accept the terms offered in the contract.

RTÉ reports that the contract is expected to arrive in the next three to four weeks.

Read: There’s been a breakthrough in those talks on free GP care for kids>

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