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During a lively and sometimes fierce Q&A session on the future of rural practice, Clare-based GP Dr Billy O’Connell asked whether there was any possibility of the IMO and NAGP finding a sense of common purpose.
“We are such a small group,” Dr O’Connell said. “We are getting caught up in the minutiae of the whole negotiating process. I think the HSE would just be laughing at us today with the divisions here and what we are getting caught up in.”
While NAGP CEO Mr Chris Goodey said the Association would welcome working with all stakeholders, Chair of the IMO GP Committee Dr Padraig McGarry ruled out the possibility.
“Quite high-profile people with the NAGP have consistently tried to undermine the IMO’s position on many, many issues,” Dr McGarry claimed.
“Throughout the under-sixes [contract] discussions, they have tried to sideline the IMO and tried to undermine their position. A lot of the members of the IMO have no appetite to join-up with the NAGP because of that very issue. A lot of issues the NAGP have taken on board have not been consistent. Initially, when the [original under-sixes] draft contract came out, they were hugely supportive but the IMO were adamantly against that draft contract. Subsequently, the NAGP changed their mind on that. So there is a whole raft of issues that the IMO and the NAGP have totally and absolutely diverse opinions on.”
In response to Dr McGarry’s comments, Clare GP Dr Liam Glynn, also speaking from the table, stressed the importance of the two bodies not appearing to be “at loggerheads”.
“The two bodies don’t have to agree on everything,” Dr Glynn said. “But at least if there was some sense of, ‘we won’t negotiate on this until the other organisation, which represents over half potentially of the GPs in this country is at the table’, I think at the very least from a congeniality point of view, that would be my call to the IMO.”
Cavan GP Dr Carroll O’Dolan suggested that the IMO ballot its members about whether the Organisation should collaborate with the NAGP.
However, Mayo GP and long-time IMO member Dr Oliver Whyte said that it would be irrational for the IMO to work alongside the NAGP, given that the Association was founded by GPs who were unhappy with the IMO.
Throughout the Q&A session, the IMO received strong criticism from a number of delegates for agreeing to the free GP care for under-sixes contract.
Kilkenny GP Dr John Enright contended the Organisation conceded the contract to Minister for Health Leo Varadkar “without getting anything back…. This is the bottom line”.
In response to the criticisms, IMO Chief Operating Officer Ms Susan Clyne insisted that the Organisation consulted widely, and the contract represented the best deal that GPs could get, while Boyle GP and IMO member Dr Colm Loftus urged disgruntled GPs to make an active contribution to the cause of rural general practice.
Frustration was also expressed about the ICGP during the session for allegedly failing to adequately represent the interests of rural doctors, with Dr Glynn saying that the College could follow the lead of the RCGP in the UK in advocating for its members.