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Free GP care claims rubbished

Claims from Health Minister James Reilly that he plans to introduce free GP care for every Irish citizen by 2016 have been rubbished.

The GP Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) criticised the dramatic announcement, saying there was "no hope" of reaching that target in the next two years.

Committee chairman Dr Ray Walley dismissed the minister's pledge as a sound-bite.

"The Department of Health have no plan to support this objective and no appreciation of the resources required to implement it," Dr Walley said.

He said the key question regarding free GP care was who would pay for it.

"Politicians talk up free GP care as if it's free for everyone but the reality is that people will still pay for their GP but will simply do so indirectly through their taxes or through an insurance scheme instead of directly as at present," Dr Walley added.

Earlier, Dr Reilly, a former president of the IMO, told RTE Radio that delivering free GP care by the next General Election was "absolutely the commitment" of the Government.

"I am saying that every citizen in this country will have free GP care," he said.

"That is the goal of this Government."

The Fine Gael-Labour coalition, in its Programme for Government, committed to delivering free GP care to every citizen in the State.

It announced the first step of its ambitious health initiative in last month's budget when it confirmed free GP care for under-fives.

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