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In a wide-ranging interview with the Medical Independent (MI), Dr Michael Harty (Independent) said it was his “understanding” that Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Department would not be treating both organisations as equals.
However, he added that the contract would take some time to negotiate and positions could change.
“The Minister says there are legal impediments, because of the Framework Agreement entered into with the IMO. I’m not a legal expert so I don’t know about that,” commented Dr Harty.
The Oireachtas Health Committee wrote to the Minister last month, calling for equal status to be accorded to both organisations.
Speaking to MI on 9 March, Dr Harty said there had been no written reply as yet from the Minister, but his understanding was that the Committee’s request would not be accepted.
“Nobody at the [Health] Committee can understand why both organisations are not given equal status.
“It seems to be about the Department and the Minister taking a view that there are legal impediments to admitting both sides with equal status. I would hope that would change over time.”
Dr Harty said he has significant problems with this position.
“My understanding is that the Minister has made a decision that the IMO will be negotiating on behalf of general practice and the NAGP will only be in a consultative role,” he said.
“I don’t agree with that. I am a member of both organisations. I have no axe to grind. I have no interest in any internecine strife between the IMO and the NAGP. I don’t think we are going to get the best contract if only one body is involved in the negotiations and the other representative body has [only] a consultative role.”
However, Dr Harty had some hope of a future change in policy.
“This is a ‘long game’. I don’t think anybody should make any sudden moves. I think this contract will take at least one year to negotiate and probably longer.”
A Department spokesperson made no comment on the matter of legal advice.
See interview with Dr Harty in our next issue