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IMO could threaten legal action over contract on free GP care

It said it is disappointed by Minister Alex White’s ‘failure to correspond’ with the organisation on negotiations over the issue.

 Chair of the IMO GP Committee Dr Ray Walley
Chair of the IMO GP Committee Dr Ray Walley
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE ROW OVER free GP care for children under six is rumbling on, with the Irish Medical Organisation warning the Department of Health that it could potentially take legal action over the issue.

The organisation has also hit out at the Minister of State Alex White over what it describes as his “failure” to correspond with them on negotiating over the issue.

In its most recent statement, the IMO said that if the Department “continues to proceed without negotiation on matters relating to the draft contract the IMO will reserve all of its legal rights, including the right to take appropriate court action, to ensure that GPs are fully represented”.

Disappointment

The IMO has also said it feels “regret and disappointment” because of what it describes as a failure of Minister Alex White “to respond to correspondence” requesting full negotiations with the IMO on the draft contract.

The IMO said it was reasserting its right to fully negotiate on behalf of GPs, and said it doesn’t accept the contention that such negotiations aren’t permitted under Competition Law.

The IMO made a submission to the Department on the draft contract proposals, in which it strongly condemned the “manner” in which the Government set about the free GP care initiative.

Submission

The IMO submission outlines its issues with the draft contract.

Among them are what it describes as “the absence of key information regarding key aspects of this initiative”.

These include the legislation provisions proposed and the medical evidence underpinning the initiative.

It also says there is an absence of details of the demographics of the people eligible to be covered by free GP care in the coming years, and details for the “practical implementation” of the contract.

According to the IMO in its submission:

  • The new contract will impose a new range of duties and responsibilities on GPs and significant increase the clinical and administrative workload of GPs.
  • The new contract will lead to a significant increase in the number and complexity of consultations undertaken by GPs.
  • The new contract will seriously undermine the clinical independence of GPs
  • The new contract will require significant additional resources and expenditure in terms of infrastructure and staffing levels in GP surgeries.
  • The new contract will have negative implications for patients as GPs will be forced to become bureaucrats rather than doctors.

The IMO criticised the Department for proceeding with this initiative while the issue of the IMO’s negotiating rights for GPs is subject to a High Court action,  beginning 30 April.

In November of last year, Minister for Health James Reilly said that the goal of the government is “that every citizen in this country will have free GP care”.

However, the IMO said there was “no hope” of this happening.

Read: Reilly: Everyone will have free GP care by 2016, IMO: There’s no hope of that>

Read: Minister can’t rule out “fiver or tenner” charge for ‘free’ GP care>

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