[Sinn Fein]

16th January 2003

``Govt. responsible for €12 million overpayment fiasco'' - Ó Caoláin

Commenting on the overpayment of €12 million to doctors and pharmacies under the General Medical Services Scheme, Sinn Fein Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD said this was the direct responsibility of the FF/PD Government and ``typified their mismanagement of the health services''. He said:

``It is appalling that doctors and pharmacies were being paid for patients who were receiving no service from them or, in some cases, were deceased. At the same time, because of the Government's reneging on its promise to extend the medical card, real people in need have been denied access to the General Medical Services Scheme.

``The extension of the Medical Card to people over 70 was done in an ill-planned and ham-fisted way, and has resulted in a massive waste of resources. Instead the scheme should have been extended in a planned and equitable manner to all those who needed it, pending the reform and restructuring of the two-tier public-private system.

``In our Pre-Budget submission last November we in Sinn Fein highlighted this waste of €12 million and called for the immediate introduction of electronic patient records and/or unique person identifier numbers. This would reduce inaccuracies in the Health Board/GMS databases and avoid such huge waste of resources. This element of the National Health Strategy should be brought forward as a matter of urgency. Any attempt to delay it because of budgetary restrictions would be totally counter-productive, costing the system dearly in the long run.''

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