Online health providers could be excluded from free contraception scheme for young women
"We are concerned that once again, women's healthcare rights will be relegated to the bottom of the priority list."
Webdoctor.ie, Ireland’s leading online GP service and health technology platform, is today expressing serious concern that the Government may exclude online options for the delivery of the proposed new scheme to make contraception freely available to women aged 17-25.
Webdoctor.ie says that, as the 17–25-year-old age group consists of digital natives who are fluent in technology, it is beyond belief that the Government may exclude online consultations from the process.
According the online healthcare providers The Department of Health has ignored repeated requests to meet to discuss the issue.
The company says it is now planning to write to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health to ask it to convene an urgent meeting on the subject.
Webdoctor.ie, which is based in Ireland and fully Irish owned, currently employs over 50 Irish registered GPs who provide up to 150,000 online consultations per year to patients right across the country.
Upwards of 20,000 of these consultations are for prescriptions for oral contraceptive pills. Given the significance of these figures, Webdoctor.ie says it is essential that online consultations and repeat prescriptions are part of the proposed free access programme.
Speaking with us today Dr. Sylvester Mooney, Chief Medical Officer and Founder of Webdoctor.ie, says;
“The Department of Health’s continued refusal to engage in a meaningful manner with Ireland’s leading provider of digital health services on a matter so crucial for women is just ludicrous. We have pioneered the availability of online prescriptions for the oral contraceptive pill, launching our service in 2014, and ever since women’s health has been a core pillar of our offering.
While we applaud the government for their decision to make contraception available free of charge for women of this age category, they have to ensure that ease of access to the scheme is a priority – and that includes offering online options. We are concerned that once again, women's healthcare rights will be relegated to the bottom of the priority list and this just isn’t acceptable in 21st century Ireland.
It has already been advised to the Oireachtas Health Committee earlier this year that 70+ per cent of GPs have closed their books to taking on new patients. Therefore where can the 17-25 age group access an in-person appointment when so many practices have closed their patient lists? An online service which is available 24/7/365 seems an obvious access point to make available to this group.
The use of telemedicine has become embedded in Ireland, especially since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. However, the use of digital pathways to access healthcare, especially for this younger segment of the population, pre-dates the pandemic and it is vital the Government reflect that in their roll out of this service. We strongly believe that telehealth is a core method for healthcare delivery that will only grow in the coming years in Ireland. That’s why it’s extremely important that online options are available to women to access prescriptions for contraception in the most convenient and cost-effective manner possible.”
Recent research shows that 90 per cent of women would prefer an online service when seeking a prescription for the contraceptive pill or patch.
The new free contraception scheme was signed into legislation recently as part of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Act 2022 by President Michael D. Higgins and the Government has signalled that the service will be in place later this month.