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General Practice in Ireland at "breaking point", says IMO

The Irish Medical Organisation said that budget cuts ‘could end the capacity to introduce universal GP care’.

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GENERAL PRACTICE IN Ireland is at “breaking point”, the Irish Medical Organisation has warned.

It made the comment while addressing Department of Health officials at an oral submission on the review of the operation under the Financial Emergency Measures (FEMPI) in the Public Interest Act 2009.

The IMO said that the imposition of further cuts, on top of recent severe cuts in financial support for GP services “threatens to destroy the fabric of the Irish GP system”.

Waiting lists

IMO GP Chairman, Dr Ray Walley said that decisions taken under the act yesterday “may well herald the introduction of waiting lists for patients for the first time in Ireland and the unavailability of GP services in certain parts of the country”.

He added:

Further cuts in payments to GPs will mark the end of any capacity to introduce Universal GP Care in Ireland in the foreseeable future.

Dr Walley said that additional cuts “will devastate general practice and will, in turn, have adverse effects on the most vulnerable patients who are dependent on the services of their GP”.

The IMO emphasised that unless general practice is protected, “waiting lists are inevitable”. It said that general practice “will lose the capacity to meet the needs of patients and this will lead to significantly increased referrals to other services which are already under pressure”. GPs believe the greatest impact of any cuts will be the frail, the elderly, mentally impaired, children and those with literacy problems, said the IMO.

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They also believe that attracting GPs to rural and disadvantaged areas is now a critical issue.

In the long term, further cuts “will virtually guarantee that universal GP care will not be possible for at least five years”, added the organisation.

Dr Walley said:

There is another way to meet the strict budgetary limits imposed by the State’s funders in a proportionate and fair manner. The challenge is to look at new and innovative ways of maximising our resources and using them in a way that meets patient needs and provides greater value for money.

Read: Government plans free GP care by 2015, universal insurance by 2016>

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