The below is a transcript of Dr Ronan Boland's interview with Martina Fitzgerald on GP fees for Social Welfare Benefit Certificates. This follows after Labour TD Kevin Humphreys presented a parliamentary question on the matter to the Dail on the same day.
The Department of Social Protection is paying GPs and other certifying doctors almost half a million euro a week to sign medical certificates. Under the Illness Benefit Scheme doctors get paid €8.25 by the State each time they sign a sick cert for a person out of work for more than three days. This is in addition to patient’s consultant fees.
Employees who are sick and out of work for more than three days can apply for illness benefit. Following a medical examination you get a GP or hospital intern who is eligible to complete and sign a Medical Certificate 1 form, the employee or their employer can then claim an Illness Benefit payment from the Department of Social Protection. If the illness persists the doctor will sign a Medical Certificate 2 form on a weekly basis. The Department says this should only be signed on foot of a medical exam. Doctors say they don’t charge patients if they’re examining for the sole purpose of providing an MC2 form. Every time these forms are completed the Department pays the doctor €8.25, on average five thousand MC1 forms a week are completed and fifty thousand MC2 forms. The State is paying GPs more than €450,000 a week and more than €23 million a year for completing these forms. The highest payment last year was almost €83,000, paid to a practise with thirteen doctors, on average though the Department says participating doctors are paid €10,000 a year. The information was obtained through a parliamentary question and follow-up questions from Labour’s Kevin Humphreys.
Kevin Humphreys: (Labour Party)
This is a ridiculous unnecessary top-up payment to doctors that the Department and this Government can ill afford. When you look it doctors are coining money now for a service, as far as I’m concerned, they’re already paid for.
Dr. Ronan Boland: (President, IMO)
Certifying patients makes up a very significant portion of my work. In relation to the actual fees and whether they should be cut or not GP fees are governed by public service agreements and also by the Financial Emergency Powers legislation and in actual fact the fees have been revisited twice already over the last couple of years.
The IMO say that GPs have been subject to two rounds of public service cuts and that this issue has been covered by both processes. It also pointed out that certificate fees are covered by the Croke Park deal. Martina Fitzgerald, RTE News.