Tipp GP says additional medical card patients could swamp the system

A local GP says a long-term strategy and investment is needed in primary care to meet the expansion of 430,000 new medical cards.

Nenagh-based GP, Dr. Pat Harrold, says he welcomes any measures that remove financial barriers for patients, but GP’s are already at full capacity.

He says the budget’s announcement to introduce 430,000 new medical cards will result in even more work when Ireland already struggles with a scarcity of GP’s as it is.

Dr. Harrold told Tipp FM it will result in approximately 150 new medical card patients per GP in Ireland.

“150 extra cards per GP means about an extra two hours in the day. So far, most GPs don’t have waiting lists, but because we are at full capacity, we just can’t fit this in between the cracks. There has to be a long-term strategy and a long-term investment in primary care and a complete beefing up of the GP service to facilitate 430,000 extra medical cards. If people have medical cards, they come to the doctor twice as often. ”

The Nenagh-based GP says he worries the health system will “slow down” and become “untenable”.

He says most GPs in Tipperary already have their lists closed to new patients and he believes the influx of new medical cards will have an effect on other services.

“It will also have a knock-on effect on the out-of-hours services, which means people will be going to that more and that’s already creaking at the seams. It’s not that you don’t want to see the people, it’s not that we don’t welcome them getting medical cards, and we’d like more people, but we just can’t at the moment. We don’t have the capacity to take them. You’re filling something that’s already full.

“We need more GPs, more GP staff, more investment, and more resources for GP practices. If all that is put in place, the 430,000 will be more than welcome. But it’s just that, at the moment, sadly, we can’t take it.”