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GPs split on free GP care for under fives

The plan is expected to be included in tomorrow’s Budget, but GPs don’t seem to know if it is a good thing or a bad thing.

Child patient visiting doctor
Child patient visiting doctor
Image: Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock

ONE BODY REPRESENTING GPs has called plans to give free GP to under fives a “political stunt”, but another has called it a “visionary step”.

The Irish Medical Organisation criticised the move, which is expected to be a cornerstone of the health plan in tomorrow’s Budget, with a spokesperson saying that income, not age, should define who receives free care.

“Income criteria remains the most effective way to capture needy groups and we believe this is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Dr Ray Whalley.

The contrast between the harrowing experience of people having their discretionary medical cards withdrawn and young, healthy children from relatively well off families being given free medical care at GPs is striking. Where is our sense of morality gone that this stroke can be described as progress?

However, the National Association of General Practitioners say that the move is akin to the Mother and Child Scheme.

“It is a great visionary step for healthcare in Ireland similar to the 1950s when the then Health Minister, Noel Browne TD, introduced a mould-breaking Mother and Child Scheme which was to provide free medical care for all expectant mothers and their children up to the age of 16 years,” said Dr Andy Jordan of the NAGP.

The scheme is expected to cost anywhere from €880 million to €1.7 billion. The NAGP says that the scheme should be implemented with the assistance of a health economist.

Read: Hole in Health budget less than €200 million, says Reilly

Read: Outside Dublin: How Budget 2014 will affect us all

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