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GPs claiming dead people's medical card fees? A 'smokescreen' - IMO

The IMO said that the Department of Health was using ‘spin’ when publicising the situation.

Image: Doctor via Shutterstock

THE DEPARTMENT OF Health’s management of the medical card system has been criticised following news that doctors claimed money for treating medical card holders who were dead.

It emerged at the weekend that some GPs claimed annual fees for medical cards for people who were already dead, or had emigrated, according to the Irish Independent.

The paper said that in total, GPs claimed more than €1.5m in taxpayers’ money through this.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) today strongly criticised suggestions that GPs were claiming fees for medical cards after the relevant card holders had passed away.

Dr Ray Walley, chairman of the GP Committee, described this suggestion from the Department of Health as ‘spin’ and an “attempt by the Department to distract attention from its own mismanagement of the medical card system”.

Dr Walley said that GPs “don’t ‘claim’ for medical card holders”, and that payments are made on the basis of patient lists maintained by the HSE and supplied to GPs.

He also said that the HSE is responsible for the maintenance of the national register of deaths – along with births and marriages – in the country. On this basis, he suggested “it is extraordinary that they now seem to suggest that GPs know more about this issue than they do themselves as the legal authority on the matter”.

According to Dr Whalley, GPs have “long ago agreed that any payments received in respect for a patient who has passed away are refunded to the HSE with the refund back-dated to the date of death”.

He said that more than 50 per cent of notifications to the HSE involving deceased patients came from GPs themselves.

Dr Walley called that the notion that GPs were holding onto fees linked to deceased medical card holders a “smokescreen”.

He said that the Budget “has been a disaster from a health perspective” and that as the Department is under scrutiny it is trying to distract from the current questions around medical cards.

Read: Nursing union warns patient care will be “severely compromised” by Budget cuts>

Read: “There has been no change in policy in relation to medical cards” – James Reilly>

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