Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney has accused the Government of engaging in a political gimmick with the announcement of free-GP care for over 70s.
Deputy Keaveney said this new policy is hypocritical and is a belated reaction to the Government’s heavy defeat in the recent local elections.
“This announcement by the Taoiseach on free GP care for over 70s has come totally out of the blue and has been done with absolutely no consultation with the relevant stakeholders. No talks were held with the IMO prior to this announcement so the very people tasked to carry out this service are completely in the dark. This has been a rushed decision aimed at distracting the electorate after the medical card fiasco.
“The utter hypocrisy of this is staggering. In Budget 2013 the government took 20,000 medical cards off less well-off over 70’s. In Budget 2014, they came back for more and took another 35,000 medical cards from the same group. This year the HSE has written to more than 50,000 over 70’s to say that their eligibility for a medical card is up for review. It is clear that, whatever the Taoiseach may say in the Dáil, this government has consistently targeted the real health care needs of the over 70’s for cuts.
“The Government is already considerably behind schedule in the roll-out of free GP care for under 6s, there is understandable resistance by GPs to the scheme as it has not been matched by resources. Now they are expected to roll-out free GP care for all over 70s with no consultation? The Government is making it up as it goes along.
“Could the money not be better spent, for instance, on reducing the prescription charges for patients which have increased five-fold since the Government came to office and which it promised to abolish?
“The Government’s plan for free GP care for all by 2016 is in tatters, the promise of Universal Health Insurance is at sea and this latest announcement is nothing more than a political gimmick to distract attention from the dysfunctional reality of our health services under Minister James Reilly.”