Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

GPs to be sued in fee cuts row

The IMO has claimed its GP members have been hit with four cuts in fees for dealing with medical card patients

Competition chiefs are suing GPs who have refused to carry out duties in protest over further cuts to fees.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which represents about 2,500 of the doctors, said it will not back down in a deepening row over reduced payment for having medical card patients on their books.

The IMO, which acts like a trade union, threatened to pull its members' support for a number of state care programmes and had been warned to reverse the decision.

It refused and the Competition Authority said it would take the organisation to court next week over the dispute.

The High Court action seeks a declaration that the IMO's withdrawal of services is against Irish and EU competition law. It is also asking the court to issue an interlocutory injunction requiring the IMO to retract and rescind its decision to pull services.

A spokesman for the IMO said: "We confirm that we have been advised of this move and we will defend our position fully."

The IMO has claimed its GP members have been hit with four cuts in fees for dealing with medical card patients and that the rate is now about nine euro, putting surgery staff numbers in danger.

They withdrew support for primary care teams, community intervention teams and clinical care programmes for chronic diseases in opposition to the cuts.

One of the major issues between the two sides is that the IMO represents the country's GPs in the same way as a union although the doctors operate independent businesses. The GPs are regarded as contractors doing work for the state rather than as employees.