Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD today called on the Government to wake up to the crisis in General Practice and set out a timetable to reverse austerity cuts which are harming GP practices and patients.

Deputy Shortall made her comments as major differences have emerged between the State and doctors over the scale of cuts imposed on GPs during the period of austerity.

Deputy Shortall said:

“The dispute over whether the overall cut in GPs fees under FEMPI amounted to 25 per cent or 38 per cent needs to be swiftly resolved.  The government must wake up to the impact on patients and GPs alike of the austerity cuts which are having a massively damaging effect on medical practices up and down the country.

“The crisis in General Practice is so severe that medical card patients are now being refused access to basic GP services. Large numbers of graduating GPs are choosing to emigrate rather than staying to work in the Irish health service. There are also significant numbers of existing GPs approaching retirement age, with a serious depletion in the numbers of practitioners to fill their ranks.

“This crisis has been looming over recent years and, due to the inaction of Government, is now coming to a head.  Successive Ministers for Health have promised to prioritise general practice and primary care for funding but, in fact, they’ve done the opposite.

“The FEMPI cuts have threatened the financial viability of many GP practices. As yet the Government has not provided any definite reassurance about the timescale for reversing these cuts and this is urgently required.

“We also know that the current GP contract is completely out of date and needs replacement with a contract that recognises the key central role of GPs in providing healthcare, including chronic disease management and keeping people out of hospital by providing care in the community. Yet there is no sense of urgency about this and negotiations are dragging on interminably.

“Overall the main problem is that there is little confidence in the Government’s commitment to reform of the health service and that things will improve. Sláintecare, the all-party strategy for reform of the health service provides solutions to all of these issues and the Government now needs to get on with its urgent implementation. Failure to do so will result in the health service becoming even more dysfunctional where patients are denied access to the most basis healthcare, putting even more lives at risk.”

ENDS

5 April 2018