Wednesday 20 September 2017

Troubled doctors' group to cut rates

Eilish O'Regan and John O'Mahoney

SUBSCRIPTIONS paid by doctors who are members of the troubled Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) are expected to be cut amid growing discontent and threats of an exodus.

IMO president Dr Paul McKeown has written to the union's 5,000 members saying the subscriptions – which are believed to range from €1,200 to €1,400 – are to be reduced to address their concerns about the rates.

He has also said the traditional venue for the organisation's AGM, the Hotel Europe in Killarney, is to be changed for this year's meeting.

The letter is part of a series of moves to placate doctors' anger in the wake of revelations that former chief executive George McNeice (51) has received a defined benefit pension deal of nearly €10m after enjoying a salary of almost €500,000.

Doctors, who no longer get tax relief on their subscriptions, have been calling for a cut for some time but increased their demands following news of the payout to Mr McNeice.

Mr McNeice is a native of Killarney and the five-star hotel, which overlooks the lakes, has been the venue for the AGM for about 20 year.

The union is now under pressure to stop more members from resigning and to convene an emergency general meeting where doctors who feel outside the fold can pass motions to gain more control over decision-making.

Dr McKeown, who along with other previous presidents – including Health Minister James Reilly – receives €100,000 for his year in office, told members that a special meeting to discuss industrial relations issues will be held at the end of next month.

Hoteliers in Killarney reacted furiously to calls to relocate the annual IMO conference.

Tralee GP Dr John Casey, who attended the IMO crisis meeting in Mullingar last weekend, said the consensus of doctors around the country was that the annual meeting should be moved out of Mr McNeice's home town to a more central location.


"We've been let down. I'm gutted," Dr Casey said. "For doctors, an intelligent group of people, we made absolute fools of ourselves. Going to a five-star hotel sends out all the wrong signals."

Dr John Geaney, in Killarney, and Dr Eamonn Shanahan, in Farranfore, also slated the pension deal approved for Mr McNeice. Dr Geaney said he was considering not renewing his IMO subscription in protest.

Tourism industry sources estimate that the IMO conference has been worth up to €300,000 to Killarney every year.

Kerry Hotels' Federation spokesman Michael Rosney said the doctors' behaviour was "wrong and ill-judged" and it has upset many people who rely on tourism to make a living.

Irish Independent

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