Free GP care for all children should initially be on basis of medical need and disability - Ó Caoláin
Responding to the Government announcement of an extension of free GP care to under 12s subject to successful negotiations with GP representatives, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Health has said that this approach is not the most effective and that medical need instead of age should be prioritised for free GP care.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said the additional funding allocation of just €18 million for health is miserable and represents a shocking failure by Minister for Health Varadkar.
Deputy Ó Caolain said;
“In its 2011 Programme for Government the Fine Gael and Labour Party government promised to extend free GP care to the entire population commencing with holders of Long-term Illness Cards and then claimants under the High-Tech Drugs Scheme. This was to be followed by subsidised care for all and finally universal GP care free at the point of delivery.
“The original intention was to prioritise medical need in the roll-out of GP care. This commitment to those with chronic illness and disability has long since been abandoned by this government that has engaged in a series of U-turns and that opted instead to commence roll-out to the over seventies, under sixes and now the under 12s.
“The Society of the St. Vincent de Paul has previously criticised the decision to extend care on the basis of age rather than financial means or medical need. The IMO have stated that GP services are overstretched and priority therefore should be given to those most in need.
“The Expert Panel on Medical Need for Medical Card Eligibility recommended that the development of a more compassionate medical card system which accommodates those with significant illness and disability should be used as a ‘stepping stone’ to the implementation of the first phase of free GP care for all.
“This was and is supported by Sinn Féin and as part of our alternative budget we have included proposals that would provide an automatic medical card for all children with significant medical needs arising from serious illness or disability and very critically we have provided for the training of much needed additional General Practitioners.
“The additional funding allocation by Government for the health spend in 2016 amounts in real terms to a miserable €18 million, the lowest additional allocation of the seven named Departments in the Government’s Budget 2016 New Expenditure Measures.
“This represents a shocking failure by Minister for Health Varadkar and is a damning indictment of this Fine Gael Labour Government who are clearly refusing to heed the cries of the people and those who do their best to tend to their health needs” stated Deputy Ó Caoláin.