The NAGP has initiated legal communications with the HSE’s Primary Care Reimbursement Service in relation to non-payment of out-of-hours fees.

The Palms Surgery in Gorey, Co Wexford is owed more than €20,000 in unpaid STC fees relating to a Saturday morning emergency clinic. The clinic provides emergency cover to practice patients. The local out-of-hours service becomes operational until 12.00 noon on Saturdays. The PCRS has arbitrarily classified the session as a routine clinic and has refused to honour STC claims for the service since April of last year.

The Palms Surgery has made continuous efforts to resolve the matter and has previously retained the services of an independent practice management firm to engage with the PCRS on its behalf. However, the HSE has refused to honour the STC claims or to clarify the reasons for its position.

On behalf of the NAGP, a solicitor’s letter was issued to Assistant National Director of the PCRS last month requesting that the situation be resolved as a matter of urgency. No response has yet been received to the correspondence. As a result, the NAGP has been left with no alternative but to issue a further letter to the HSE requesting that all outstanding STC claims been processed as a matter of urgency. The correspondence also states that should payment not be received within the next 14 days, the association and the Palm Surgery will be left with no alternative but to issue appropriate legal proceedings.

Dr Peter Harrington, a partner at the Palms Surgery said: “There is absolutely no basis for our Saturday morning clinic to be classified as a routine clinic. We do not accept routine appointment for the Saturday morning session. Appointments are taken on an emergency basis on the day.

“The practice runs a Saturday morning to facilitate patients who required emergency care at that time. The CareDoc service is available from 12 midday onwards. We have tried every avenue possibly to get the PCRS to engage with us on this but have been left without payment or even an adequate explanation as to why there is an issue in terms of payment.

“We are continuing to provide the clinic but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. We have already had to let the clinic nurse go and if the situation is not resolved soon, we will have no choice but to suspend the service altogether,” Dr Harrington said.

NAGP CEO, Chris Goodey said the Palm Surgery’s situation is just one example of the difficulties GPs are being faced with in relation to the PCRS.

“GP practices around the country are struggling to survive in the wake of the savage cuts imposed on the sector in recent years. For the HSE to then refuse to pay contractually agreed fees, is completely unacceptable.

“Given the current emergency department overcrowding difficulties and the HSE’s declaration that it is committed to addressing the problem, it in ludicrous that GPs are being deterred from providing out-of-hours clinics. Minister Varadkar has repeatedly stated that general practice is an essential component of the ED crisis solution. Yet, the sector is being thwarted at every turn.

“The categorisation of STCs is just one of the vehicles being used by the PCRS to deny GPs contractually agreed payments. It is completely unacceptable. The NAGP and the Palm Surgery has made every effort to resolve the issue through non-legal processes but the HSE has refused to engage constructively. We are left with no other alternative but to pursue the matter through the Courts,” Mr Goodey said.

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For further information or to arrange an interview, contact Andrew Mernagh of Lotus PR on 087-2911028 or andrew@lotuspr.ie