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'Not realistic': Free GP care for under 13s questioned by medical group

Six and seven-year-olds would receive free care from this year under proposed legislation.

Image: Shutterstock/Olena Yakobchuk

Updated Jan 5th 2020, 4:29 PM

THE GOVERNMENT-APPROVED plan to provide free GP care for children aged under 13 has been called “not realistic” by the president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).

It was reported earlier today that under 13s would receive free GP care in the coming years in a plan approved by the government.

Six and seven-year-olds would receive free care from this year. 

President of the IMO, a group representing doctors in Ireland, Dr Padraig McGarry said GP services are at “breaking point”.

“Without significant additional resources, it is simply not realistic to introduce policies to increase demands on a what is a very fragile service,” McGarry said in a statement today. 

“When GPs read of promises like these being made, our hearts sink because we know that the service is already fragile and we despair that people who should know better don’t seem to care. 

“Any talks on potential extensions to the service must take into account capacity and adequate resourcing,” he said. 

The Department of Health said it will draft a Bill to extend the free GP care for those aged under 13. GP visits are currently free for under 6s in Ireland. 

This Bill would also increase the income limits for medical card assessment for people aged 70 and over.  

The Bill would extend free GP visits to six and seven-year-olds this year and provide free visits to all children under 13 on a phased basis in the coming years.  

Minister for Health Simon Harris said this would improve access to GP services for children and reflects the government’s “commitment to delivering healthcare for all”.

“We remain determined to ensure that cost should not be a prohibiting factor in children accessing appropriate healthcare when and where they require it, and this decision is a significant step towards meeting that goal,” Harris said in a statement. 

The weekly gross income threshold for access to medical cards for those aged 70 and over will increase to €550 for individuals and €1,050 for couples under the legislation.

This measure is estimated by the department to benefit up to 56,000 people. 

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