Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Fingal Louise O’Reilly raised in the Dáil the situation in Balbriggan, Co Dublin where GPs are refusing to take under 6s due to overcapacity and oversubscription. The Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson queried the fact that doctors’ surgeries are full in terms of the GP under-6 scheme, with many taking new registrations but only paying registrations.
Deputy O’Reilly said:
“I am raising the issue involving over-capacity difficulties regarding children under six for GP care. The unfortunate reality is that the failure to plan on the part of this Government and that which preceded it has now manifested itself. In north county Dublin, it is quite a feature but especially so in the town of Balbriggan. The latter has a very young population and we can expect to see a surge in the number of children under six in the next couple of years.
“Parents cannot find a doctor willing to take them and, therefore, they cannot register. This is an everyday occurrence. Their children do not have access then to the GP services that the Minister and the people who sit on that side of the House were congratulating each other on granting. It is utterly useless to people in Balbriggan who cannot register with their GP and who are left without these vital services.
“Families are being forced to spend money they do not have for a service of which the Minister is busy telling them they can avail. They cannot avail of it. I want to know what will be done to alleviate the pressure because it is not going to go away. If anything, it is actually going to get worse.”
Deputy O’Reilly continued:
“It is all very well to say there are X number of children in the system who are eligible for access to this scheme but it is actually completely useless to those people who simply cannot access it. I wonder if the Department of Health would give some consideration to reimbursing those parents who, through no fault of their own, cannot access the medical card for under-6s and are forced to pay because the service is not available in their areas?
“If the Department of Health is aware, then I, and the people in Balbriggan who are waiting, would like to know what exactly the Minister can do to alleviate this problem in the short term. It is not acceptable that there are chronic waits. Quite apart from the fact that people cannot get these medical cards, they also cannot get appointments to see GPs in Balbriggan for two, three or four days.
“The GPs are already overburdened. They do a fantastic job but they are only human. They are up to the limit of their capacity. We need to incentivise general practitioners to go to the areas they are needed and we must have salaried GPs if that is what is necessary. In the short term, we need to reimburse people who, through no fault of their own, are forced to attend and pay for GP services for children under-6.”