The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has responded to the Health Minister’s announcement yesterday, claiming that it was little more than a populist move to win votes in the expected Spring 2018 election.
While they welcomed support for carers, who the have described as providing “a vital function in our society”, the GP association has expressed concern that, in this case, the Minister is knowingly making a promise that he cannot deliver.
In recent weeks, the Minister has recognised that there is no additional capacity in the GP sector, yet he has made this promise despite assurances that there would not be any extensions to the existing 40 year old GMS contract.
The NAGP criticised Minister Harris’ lack of consultation or agreement with the medical representative bodies before making this decision, which they have stated “flies in the face of a ‘collaborative’ process” and “makes a mockery” of new GMS contract negotiations.
Minister Harris indicated last night on RTÉ that there will be an additional 40,000 qualifying patients under this scheme. The NAGP have asserted that the scheme is disingenuous, as it offers a doctor visit card that does not carry with it the benefits such as medications, counselling, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, that this particular group need.
The NAGP stated: “The Minister’s announcement demonstrates a complete disconnect and lack of engagement with general practitioners and the deepening crisis in the sector.
“This comes at a time when general practice is already overwhelmed and under resourced. General practitioners are leaving the profession in large numbers, young GPs, in particular, are leaving Ireland in search of jobs that present a real work-life balance, something that is simply not realistic in Ireland in the current system.
“Without adequate resourcing this will add to the pressures of a system that is currently bursting at the seams and result in more GPs leaving and increased patient safety risk”.
The NAGP has called on Minister Harris to proactively and urgently progress GMS contract negotiations in a manner that suggests that he and the Department of Health are serious about providing properly resourced primary care services to the Irish people and about averting a full-blown healthcare crisis.