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Minister: 'A decision to see a doctor should never be a financial dilemma'

The draft legislation will be debated in the Dáil in May and enacted in July.

MINISTER OF STATE Alex White is in Carton House in Maynooth today to address doctors about proposed legislation to provide free GP care for under 6s.

The Irish Medical Organisation is meeting for its AGM amid controversy about the government’s plans.

According to RTÉ News, the junior minister with responsibility for primary care, was met with “polite silence” and there was no applause at the end of his speech.

He told the conference that a decision to see a doctor should not create a financial dilemma for individuals or families.

“Ireland is the only EU health system that does not offer universal coverage for primary care. If we are serious about shifting resources and attention to this sector, as I believe we must, then we will have to remove the barrier of fees for GP attendance.

A decision to see a doctor should never be a commercial or financial dilemma for any citizen of our State.

The legislation will be debated in the Dáil and Seanad in May, with plans to enact in by July.

PastedImage-80727 Fennell Photography Fennell Photography

Meanwhile, his fellow Fine Gael junior minister Fergus O’Dowd told Claire Byrne that more talks are required between doctors and the Minister of Health.

“This is what we can afford to do right now,” he said, explaining there should be universal cover for all citizens.

He also denied claims that there will be up to 750,000 more GP visits because of the proposals.

“I can’t imagine people queuing up outside a doctor’s surgery when they are not sick,” he said, noting that free GP care for under 6s will allow doctors to “identify and prevent illnesses getting worse” and “identify them earlier”.

“The last thing we want is parents not taking a child to the doctor because they can’t afford them,” he noted, echoing the Minister’s words that identifying childhood conditions early is vital.

However, he conceded that more robust discussions are still required and that it is important that all parties sit down and negotiate.

“It is a draft proposal…it is very clear that he needs to talk to the doctors.”

It’s a draft discussion…all suggestions will be discussed, debated and agreed

White has urged the IMO to enter talks with no preconditions.

Fianna Fáil has accused the government of mooting free GP care for under 6s for electoral purposes, rather than people’s health.

Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher also described it as “unfair” that young children from affluent families will get free care, while there are others who are losing much-needed GP and medical cards.

Doctors say they agree, in principle, to free GP care for all citizens but that it requires appropriate planning, resources and negotiations.

They see the plans for free GP care for under 6s as an attack on their group.

IMO Conference

Doctors, yesterday, agreed to a “comprehensive overhaul” of its Constitution and rules. The changes will allow for better oversight and control, as well as improved audit and risk systems.

The remuneration package of the CEO will also be disclosed annually following former chief executive George McNeice leaving the IMO with a pension pot worth close to €10 million.

McNeice also received a termination payment of €1,495,850.

Read: Doctors’ organisation says politics getting in way of patient treatment

More: Dispute between GPs and Reilly on agenda for IMO AGM

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