3 December 2015
By Tom O’Sullivan
“There is an urgent need to complete negotiations on the GP contract,” according to Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and the party’s Seanad Spokesperson on Health, Colm Burke. Senator Burke was speaking after raising the matter in the Seanad with Minister of State in the Department of Health, Kathleen Lynch.
“I raised this matter in the Seanad, with rural GPs particularly in mind as they are currently dealing with a lot of uncertainty.
“One GP told me that €200,000 was coming into the practice four or five years ago in respect of the provision of care to medical card patients. The number of medical card patients in his practice has increased substantially but the amount of money he is getting has decreased to €120,000; a drop of over 40%. The same expenses have to be paid including rent, rates, insurance and salaries for support staff to provide the service.
“The current GP contract is over 40 years old and it is time we updated it to bring a resolution to the situation. We must maintain and push to improve the special concessions that exist for GPs in remote rural areas of low population.
“GPs also qualify for more favourable subsidies towards the employment of staff, including practice nurses and secretarial support. More advantageous supports for locum costs for leave are also payable. These subsidies must also be improved.
“I welcome the reply of the Minister that progress is being made on the negotiations with GPs and she is correct to say that the negotiations between the Department of Health and the Irish Medical Organisation are just one aspect of this; the HSE is involved also.
“The possibility of having practice nurses hired by the State so that GPs are no longer responsible for their recruitment is an interesting idea and one that could make a big difference.
“I also welcome the news that much of the issues were ironed out in the course of the negotiations on the contracts for the under 6’s and the over 70’s.
“General Practice is such an important part of the fabric of rural towns and villages. We must ensure that this remains the case and it is time now to focus on the outstanding issues and to bring the new contract over the line.”