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Upset in north-east after co-op motion rejected

The tensions come amid ongoing disquiet in the region that the welfare of GP out-of-hours service NEDOC is overriding the will of some GP members.

A motion to ballot members on the question of a voluntary rota was disallowed by the NEDOC board of directors on legal advice, much to the displeasure of some GPs. Members were told at the co-op’s AGM in September that the motion was incompatible with company law and the good of the company.

Dr Michael McConville, Co Cavan GP, who seconded the motion, told the Medical Independent (MI) the intention was to kick-start a debate about the sustainability of the co-op and its operations.

Dr McConville outlined that if a voluntary rota was introduced, he would still commit to working such a rota.

“It is not that we would not work in a co-op but the intent was to change the dynamic and start negotiations,” he said.

Dr McConville added that while working on 27 December, he was told at 3pm that the co-op was booked-out until midnight. “Therefore, this is no longer an urgent out-of-hours service.”

Ms Arlene Fitzsimons, Operations Manager at NEDOC, told MI that from 23 December to 3 January, the co-op managed almost 5,700 calls.

This compared to 5,100 contacts during the same time period the previous year.

“While the number of treatment centre visits was only slightly up, we were at full rostering levels and yet had to close-off appointments at 4pm on 2 January due to over-demand,” she said.

“Out-of-hours has to think of alternative methods of providing care — there are simply not enough GPs and consideration has to be given to other clinicians providing support.”

In a statement on behalf of the NEDOC board of directors, Chairman Dr Larry McEntee noted that a GMS doctor could withdraw from NEDOC at any time and revert to a local rota.

GPs worked onerous local rotas before NEDOC was established, according to the statement. 

Members’ motions were “always carefully noted and discussed in the context of meeting our current 24-hour obligations and providing a safe service”.

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