Legislation on universal GP care not the same thing as its delivery – Kelleher

25th January 2015
By Tom O’Sullivan
tom@TheCork.ie

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher TD has raised
questions about the Government’s promise to provide free GP care to
under 6s and over 70s. It intends to bring forward legislation on the
roll out of universal GP care for the over 70s during this Dáil term,
however plans to provide primary care for the under 6s remain stalled.

Deputy Kelleher commented, “Once again we have this Government making
promises in an attempt to curry favour with the electorate. Less than
a month after taking office Minister Leo Varadkar announced that he
was all but shelving Universal/Compulsory Health Insurance but in a
new turn of events has decided to revive the almost terminal plan.

“In August, he claimed that the timetable for Universal Health
Insurance was “too ambitious”, but now he wants to press ahead with
the roll out of free GP care for the over 70s in the next few months
and has proposed legislation for this Dáil term. This is despite the
fact that he has failed to get agreement from GPs over the roll out of
universal care for the under 6s.

“It’s now over a year and a half since the proposals were first
introduced. The programme was meant to be up and running by the
autumn of 2014 but the Minister’s failure to take on board the
concerns of doctors has led to a stalemate and a date for its roll out
is still not forthcoming. Now Minister Varadkar is bullishly pushing
ahead with legislation on universal GP care for the over 70s without
having resolved the outstanding issues with the doctors.

“The very concept of The Government’s “free GP care” model must be
questioned as the Minister himself has indicated that a fee per visit
may be imposed. The fact that there are already plans being
considered to charge people for “universal GP care” is not only
paradoxical; it goes against the promises made in the Programme for
Government.

“Fine Gael and Labour have a great track record of making promises
they can’t keep and rowing back on measures that they committed to
before getting into power. What began as universal primary care has
now morphed into services with a “nominal fee”, and even at that
doctors are still refusing to sign up to the scheme for the under 6s.

“The public can no longer have confidence in this Government to
deliver the health service it promised. The roll of “free” GP care
for the over 70s cannot be guaranteed unless the Minister works with
doctors and gets them on board. Legislation alone will not secure its
future, and given his performance on the issue to date, it would
appear that universal GP care is some way off”.

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