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The Medical Council sought approval for vouched locum expenses for its President so she can fulfil her duties with the regulatory body.
The Council requested sanction of locum expenses incurred by GP Dr Rita Doyle exclusively for the purpose of Council business, according to the business case obtained by the Medical Independent following a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Health.
The wide responsibilities of the President were described in the document, including attendance at all ordinary Council meetings, which take place over two days. The briefs for Council “can consist of an average of 9,700 pages and require two days’ reading in preparation”.
“The time commitment required to fully embrace stakeholder engagement is quite onerous,” according to the document. “The representational role of the President is important, since the President represents the public face of the Council, who will be principally responsible for dealing with the Minister for Health and Oireachtas Committees.”
Only registered doctors are eligible for election as President or Vice-President. It was important to ensure that doctors were not deterred from becoming President “by reason of the extraordinary costs associated with engaging locum cover for their practice”.
Dr Doyle is principal GP in Bray Family Practice and has run the practice on a full-time basis.
“Dr Doyle requires the services of a locum to ensure that her patients are provided with continuity of care in her absence while on Medical Council business. It is envisaged that in the first year of office, Dr Doyle will be required to commit up to three days per week for 50 weeks per annum… The industry rates incurred for locum cover for professionals varies, depending on the area of expertise. The average cost of locum cover is €600 per day.”
This would result in “a substantial cost of €75,000 per annum”, which, according to the rate cited in the document, would relate to 2.5 days per week for 50 weeks.
The Council had “sufficient funds at their disposal to defray the cost of covering the reimbursement of locum fees”.
A Council spokesperson said the business case was discussed with the Department and “the locum costs are a vouched expense”.