Doctors warn of GP crisis
General practice (GP) services are in crisis and on the brink of collapse as resources are cut and workloads increased, doctors warned.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) accused successive governments of heaping extra burdens on GPs by slashing spending by 5% over the last five years while the number of medical or GP visit cards issued soared by 38%.
It hit back at criticisms by the Troika that fees for private patients are too high, claiming they are now subsidising services to everyone.
Dr Ray Walley, of the IMO's GP committee, also said the Government's focus on extending free GP care to everyone by 2016 was unhelpful, unplanned and unworkable.
"Firstly we don't believe it will happen," he said.
"But, secondly, we are also concerned that it's a distraction from the urgent need to increase resources for General Practice now to improve patient outcomes today.
"That should be the priority."
Patients make 22 million visits to their doctor every year.
The IMO, which represents more than 2,000 GPs, launched a new campaign pushing for more resources.
It said just 2% of the Irish health budget goes to general practice - as opposed to 9% in the UK - and that it wants a five-fold increase in the portion of the health budget handed over.
The IMO also called for better patient services to ensure same-day appointments and to alleviate pressures on other parts of the hospital services.
Elsewhere it wants an action plan to address the growing shortage of GPs.
Dr Walley said the GP service is on its knees, claiming private fee income has fallen significantly for all GPs.
"As Government cuts GP fees, private fees are now cross-subsidising GP services to everyone," he said.
B ut he claimed doctors want to be part of the solution to Ireland's healthcare crisis, adding that proper resources could do more to improve the delivery of health services in the community.
"We want to help," Dr Walley added, launching the campaign that starts tomorrow.
"We want to persuade the Government of the potential that exists within general practice and the ability within the GP profession to help transform the delivery of services to patients within their communities."