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GPs still charging medical card holders for blood tests despite instruction not to

Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, Anthony Lawlor, raised in the Dáil today (Wednesday) the urgent need to address the practice of GPs continuing to charge medical card holders for blood tests, despite receiving instruction from the HSE in June 2011 informing them they should not be charged for these services.

“I raised this issue with the Minister of State in the Department of Health, Roisin Shorthall, in the Dáil this afternoon following discussions with a number of my constituents who have been charged for services which they thought were covered by their medical card. Having undertaken my own enquiries into this practice, I was astonished to find that although a number of clinics do not charge for any such services, some GPs are charging fees between €20 to €45. When I queried these fees, a number of GPs responded by saying it is to cover the cost of transporting the blood sample to the hospital laboratory.

“The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has previously rejected any suggestion that GPs are acting outside of the terms of their General Medical Services (GMS) contracts, because they have no contractual obligation to provide routine phlebotomy services for GMS patients. However, Minister Shortall today reconfirmed in the Dáil that GPs who hold GMS contracts with the HSE must not seek or accept money from medical card or GP visit card holders, as these patients are eligible for free GMS services, including blood tests, to diagnose or monitor a condition. I suggested to the Minister that GMS contracts should be thoroughly analysed to ensure that legally, as stated by the HSE, GPs conform to all contractual obligations without exception.

“I would encourage any medical card holders who are being charged for blood tests, or other services provided by their GPs, to report the matter to the HSE or seek a refund from their GP. I feel it is utterly deplorable that the most vulnerable in our society, the sick and elderly, should be treated in this manner by their local GPs. I am glad that I could clarify this matter with the Minister and call on all GPs to stamp out this unfair practice.”

ENDS