More than seven in 10 doctors in Dublin West have signed up to provide free GP care to under sixes, according to figures released recently.
Thirty contracts out of a total of 42 have been returned by doctors to the HSE, a return rate of 71%.
Starting on July 1, the new GP service without fees will benefit 8,000 children in Dublin West aged up to five years, and from August 1, for senior citizens aged 70 or more.
For children under six, the new service also includes dedicated asthma checks, and two wellness assessments aimed at identifying future health problems early, such as childhood obesity.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said the service is the first concrete step to universal health care.
“There are no means tests or sickness tests. You can sign up on online.
“All you need is your name, PPS number and contact details, and your child’s date of birth and PPS number.
“You will also need to know the name of your doctor of choice.
“Children who already have a medical card or a GP visit card do not need to register again,” he said.
He went on to say that it is up to doctors to decide whether or not they wish to provide the service and patients are free to move from one GP to another, but will have to sign up for a new visit card at www.gpvisitcard.ie.
Tanaiste Joan Burton welcomed the news, saying it was a vote of confidence in the initiative.
“I am pleased to see there has been a healthy uptake locally among doctors of the free GP care scheme.
“It is a good indication that local doctors have belief in the initiative and that they agree with the basic principle that no parent should have to think twice about bringing their sick child to the doctor,” she said.