Politicians tell GPs – “I wouldn’t sign this contract”

Several TDs who attended the mid-west meeting of general practitioners in Limerick last night said that they would not sign the proposed new contract which has been offered to GPs if they were in practice themselves.

Limerick TD Willie O’Dea said that nobody could contemplate signing a contract which contained a ‘gagging’ clause, the deputy said the contract was more onerous than the one in Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’ which demanded a ‘pound of flesh’.

The meeting was held as part of an on-going series of meetings that are being held across the country to highlight the opposition of GP’s not just to the new contract, but the on-going FEMPI cuts which are causing a crisis in general practice.

The chair of the meeting, Dr Conor McGee, said that the on-going FEMPI cuts were discriminatory and affected elderly and more isolated people disproportionately. This is socially divisive and unacceptable.

The Clare Fianna Fail TD, Timmy Dooley, said that there was no such thing as free GP care and that someone had to pay for it. He said that he had experience of constituents at his clinic losing their medical cards because the HSE had made it more difficult to fill in forms to retain their medical card status.

Limerick TD Kieran O’Donnell said that the number of GPs who turned out for the meeting showed how big the issue was for them. “If we don’t have a functioning primary care system,” he said, “the health service won’t work.

The meeting was addressed by several speakers including Dr Ed Walsh, Founding President of Limerick University. Dr Walsh issued a call to the Department of Health to tell the HSE to ‘stop lying’ about the GP’s wages. Dr Walsh said that the HSE used ‘black propaganda’ to try to sway public opinion on how much doctors made.

“The average practice income is €130,000 before all expenses are paid. This is practice turnover-not income. That includes rent or mortgage, heat, cleaning, insurance, medical indemnity, practice nurses and admin staff etc… However, the HSE still puts out figures that suggest doctors are making €700,000 a year.”

Local Limerick TD and Minister Jan O’Sullivan told the meeting that there was ‘no way’ that the contract could be implemented as is.