Irish health service in crisis as GPs flock to emigrate

Irish health service in crisis as GPs flock to emigrate

Irish health service in crisis as GPs flock to emigrate

The Republic of Ireland’s general practice system is breaking down under the strain of GP fee cuts, poor working conditions and unworkable draft contracts.

Hundreds of GPs are heading for Australia, including local doctors with many years of experience in their communities. Those still committed to staying in the system are foregoing their wages in attempts to keep their surgeries running after the government’s fee and resource cuts.

A major meeting of east coast GPs in Dublin has resulted in strong criticism of the government’s policies on general practice, with particular reference to the free GP care plan for children under the age of six. The draft contract, GPs insist, is totally unworkable.

Chair of the IMO Dr Ray Walley hit hard on the government’s Competition Act which, he said, forbids GP collective negotiation of fees. The Competition Authority allows GP submission on fees, but prohibits fee-setting by any organisation except the government.

Dr Stephen Murphy, chair of the regional branch of the National Association of GPs, told the media that government-set GP fees for the treatment of medical card patients had been cut by 38 per cent during the last several years. Many practices in rural areas with a high proportion of medical card patients, he added, are now insolvent as a result.

Recently-qualified GPs are at the head of the queue to emigrate, as they cannot see any future in Ireland. Kieran Ryan, CEO of the Irish College of GPs, noted that a recent survey indicated that almost 50 per cent of new entrants to the profession were planning to leave.

Most, he added, are not leaving in the hope of higher salaries overseas, but because of the wish to create a viable, higher-standard practice in a more stable environment. Even practices in Dublin’s wealthy suburbs and other major cities are at risk of closure, he said.

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