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Speaking on behalf of the Mayo Branch, Dr Egan tabled a motion calling on the HSE and Department of Health to recognise that patient assignment under the GMS contract was envisaged to cover emergency and isolated situations only.
“It was not envisaged that large numbers of patients be transferred without agreement. We call on the HSE to cease the practice of assigning patients in this manner,” the motion stated. Dr Egan described it as the most serious proposal the IMO had seen.
Originally intended to be a rare occurrence, the practice had now become routine and was causing enormous disruption, the meeting heard.
“If they can’t get a doctor for a patient, they lob him on to the next doctor — they don’t even ring the doctor to ask if he’ll take the new patient. If the patient causes trouble in the surgery, threatens the doctor, threatens the secretary, then the HSE can move him on to the next doctor and not say a word.”
GPs do not know who is coming through the door of their practice and “you can be assigned 100 to 200 patients in the morning”, Dr Egan said.
The motion was about doctors reasserting control of their practice and he asked that the IMO executive be directed to test the legality of patient assignment without agreement. However, he was informed that the IMO could not be directed to do that.
“Someone needs to tackle the legality,” Dr Egan said. “You’re going to be talking about contracts as far as I’m concerned for the next 20 years, but this issue is causing more and more trouble and I question its legality in the present legal climate.”
The motion was referred to the IMO GP Committee.