An Inishowen GP practice has taken a stand against the “immoral” removal of medical cards from those “who need them most.”
Doctors at Millbrae Surgery in Carndonagh have contacted patients to inform them they will not sign a contract relating to free GP care for all children under the age of six.
As a result, they will not be able to treat any children under six-years-old if and when the contentious scheme comes into effect this summer.
The surgery is a three-partner practice, with Dr Seamus Kelly, Dr Ken Devlin and Dr Siofra Nic an Bhreithiun treating patients from across North Inishowen.
Speaking to the ‘Journal,’ Dr Kelly said the scheme is “wrong” and they cannot support it.
He said they have watched the most “vulnerable” in the Inishowen community lose their medical cards recently, a move he described as “immoral.”
Dr Kelly added that under Government reforms, GPs were being forced to “sign more forms, tick more boxes and attend more HSE meetings.”
He said this, coupled with the proposed new scheme, meant patients “would be waiting a week for a doctor appointment” in the near future.
He said: “The main reason we are not signing up to this contract is because we have found they are taking away medical cards from the people in our community who need them the most. What they have been doing is absolutely immoral. As a practice and as individual doctors, we cannot support this. It is punishing the weakest and most vulnerable within our community.”
Dr. Kelly said the practice’s stand has been supported by patients.
“They have said they are behind us,” he said.
“Everyone knows someone who has lost their medical card and desperately needs it.”
Dr Kelly said the surgery’s doctors feel the particulars of the free GP care scheme, a foundation stone in the Government’s universal health care plans, is “wrong.”
“They are not letting us see any other option,” he said.
In the letter to patients, the doctors said that as a practice, they have tried to maintain a service that people deserve and were “sorry things have come to this.”
They added they would keep patients informed of
Proposed legislation aimed at giving effect to the new plans was published last week. It has been met with anger by the Irish Medical Association, who have argued that doctors have not been consulted and that practices could be overwhelmed.There are also concerns for doctors’ future livelihoods, particularly as it comes after millions of euro in cuts in recent years.
Under the scheme, GPs paid to treat children under the medical card scheme and who wish to continue to do so will have to sign up to the contract.
Similarly, parents of children under six with a medical card would have to pay privately if they wanted to remain with a GP who did not opt for this contract.