Controversy over €2.7m handed to doctor union
A company operated by the country's main doctors' union got €2.7m in taxpayers money generated from funds from a controversial "drugs savings scheme", it has been confirmed.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which is funded by the subscriptions of more than 5,000 doctors, received the funds between 2001 and 2005 for various programmes to support GPs.
The Department of Health agreed the funding be paid using money saved from a scheme that incentivised GPs to be more cost effective in prescribing drugs to their patients in a bid to make savings.
The IMO confirmed yesterday that one of its companies, the Irish Medical Educational Services (IMES), received the funding for projects to support and promote General Practice.
It has recently paid back €126,000 to the HSE - although the funding ended in 2005.
The money was used by the union for information technology, the development of GP training programmes, rural practices and other services, according to documents obtained by RTE News.
However, it said that there was no value for money audit carried out to measure how the money was spent. Invoices also failed to provide the names of doctors or others who received payments from the funding.
A spokesman for the Irish Medical Organisation said that during 2011 and 2012 the company undertook projects in terms of training and developing models for general practice and both of these projects had been completed.
"The residual funds left in the company have been returned to the HSE as they had not been spent and all the initiatives had ceased," he added.
He said that "on an important point of information, the IMO confirms that no legal costs were incurred.
"No payments for legal costs were made by IMES between 2011 and 2013.
"The section heading in relevant accounts indicates that it covers costs described as - either or both - legal and professional costs.
"In the case of these accounts, the costs stated were professional to legal and they were in line with the objectives of supporting and promoting general practice."
The drugs savings scheme ended in 2005 with many questioning why doctors were incentivised to generate funds which could be invested in their own practices.