[From top: Dr Ciara Kelly on The Saturday Night Show at the weekend and a screengrab from the HSE’s draft contract for the Free GP Care to Children Aged Under Six]
Dr Ciara Kelly, from RTÉ’s Operation Transformation, appeared on The Saturday Night Show last Saturday and spoke to host Brendan O’Connor about Health Minister James Reilly’s free GP care for children under six initiative and specifically about Section 28.4.4 that’s in the draft contract.
Brendan O’Connor: “Ciara, you mentioned there, the Primary Care System, we were all encouraged to go to your GP so you’re not clogging up the hospitals and everything – and in fairness, it’s the only kind of non-dysfunctional part of the Health Service, in the sense that if you want to see a GP, pretty much you can see a GP, usually if you’re lucky, within an hour or two, certainly that day, or the next day, or whatever – it works.”
Dr Ciara Kelly: “It works.”
O’Connor: “Is that going to fall apart now?”
Dr Kelly: “I think so, there are two brilliant things about General Practice – one is, the same day appointment, and in fact if you’re very, very sick and you walk in, probably the instant appointment – and A&E doesn’t provide that anymore. So that, I think is a very important thing. We’re hearing about this ‘Netherland’s Model’ that we’re moving to. The average waiting time to see a GP in the Netherlands is three to four days. And don’t think it’s free there either – they pay 23.9% of their income to have that universal healthcare insurance…”
O’Connor: “They pay a quarter of their income…for their healthcare alone?”
Dr Kelly: “That’s the model we’re moving towards…”
O’Connor: “Are you sure that’s right?”
Dr Kelly: “I promise you, that’s right. Or, people maybe go to the NHS model, one to three weeks is the average waiting time for an appointment GP on the NHS. Currently, what we have in Ireland is a very rare thing – instant access to your GP. And the other thing, I would say, quickly, is that we offer an egalitarian one-tier system, which doesn’t exist in the rest of our health service.
It is the only part of the health service that when you ring up, someone doesn’t say to you, ‘Do you have VHI?’ before they give you the appointment. It doesn’t matter to me whether someone has a medical card, or they are paying money, I will see them the same way – I will see a sick patient with a medical card ahead of a well patient who is private. So, I think we throw that away at our peril, that’s a really good thing – it works.
But the last thing is the gagging clause The gagging clause is part of the ‘Under 6 Contract’ – I will never get an ‘Under 6 Contract’, because I’m grossly critical of the HSE all the time, as you may know, in The Sunday Independent. We have been gagged, they are no longer going to let us be GP advocates for our patients. They have a gagging clause to prevent whistle-blowing in that contract. So, I could never criticise the HSE without losing my contract. We have seen very recently in this country the value of whistleblowers. I will never sign a contract that prevents me, or forbids me from speaking out if I see something wrong happening to my patient, I don’t trust the HSE – Im sorry!”
Watch back here