5th October 2012
Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, Anthony Lawlor, is hoping that the new Minister of State at the Department of Health, Alex White TD, will tackle the continuing practice by some GPs to charge medical card patients for routine blood tests, There currently exists a stalemate between the HSE and the Irish Medical Organisation about this matter, with the former stating that the GMS contract disallows GPs from charging medical card holders whilst the IMO do not believe that they are acting outside the terms of their contracts by doing so.
“Last June I raised this matter by way of a Topical Issue Debate with the former Minister of State, Roisin Shortall, who reconfirmed for me that GPs had specifically been informed by letter in 2011 that this practice must cease and that she would continue to monitor the on going situation. She suggested that any patient who was incorrectly charged should request a refund or make a complaint to HSE and that she would consider sending a reminder letter to all GPs. On her suggestion I also compiled and forwarded to her a list of GPs in my own area who engaged in this practice.
“Having liaised with GPs in my own constituency and with the IMO it is clear that the current GMS contract, which was drawn up in the 1970s, is now very much out of date. I am hoping that the new Minister will tackle this issue head on and set about engaging with the IMO to redefine the terms of the contract in order to eliminate this confusion. This needs to be done without delay.
“I am very anxious to have this practice curbed as it has caused a lot of upset for vulnerable patients who cannot understand why their own GP charges them for blood tests whilst their neighbour, who may also hold a medical card, gets the same service free of charge. I am hoping that this discrepancy within the GMS system will be rectified and that all medical card holders will be treated fairly,”