Saturday 7 December 2019

IMO in need of root and branch review

THE move to gain support for an emergency general meeting of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) deserves consideration from its 5,000 members.

Dr Cathal O Suilliobhain's call to arms to other doctors, to provide the necessary 120 signatures to hold this meeting, is not just an attempt to get clearer answers on the €10m pension deal for outgoing chief executive George McNeice.

Mr McNeice's salary of nearly €500,000 at the time of his departure and his defined benefit pension – which could have topped €25m – only came to light to the majority of members in December. Huge questions remain about how the original deal was done in 2003 and who knew about it.

But the concerns go beyond transparency and there is real fear that the lack of confidence in the IMO to function as a union will lead to a loss of more members.

Dr O Suilliobhain is clear there is little time to be lost and, doctors who feel outside the fold, need to gather for an emergency meeting where binding motions can be passed. An information meeting for members held in Mullingar last Saturday drew heated comments from the floor. The current President Paul McKeown has already promised an external independent audit to examine union finances. And a prospective review is under way to chart the path forward for the organisation and bring in changes in governance and the way it is run.

The current controversy appears to have brought a growing dissatisfaction with the union's performance to a head. It has already suffered a loss of members because of discontent at the way it has been responding to workaday industrial relations queries and support needed by individual doctors.

There is also disappointment that no legal challenge was mounted by the union against the competition law which has diluted its negotiating power.

It has meant that GPs in particular have seen a series of cuts in the fees for treating medical card holders but have been unable to get around the table to conduct any bargaining.

Irish Independent

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