IMO agrees to withdraw from GP fee cut protest
Undertaking before High Court follows discussions with Competition Authority
The Irish Medical Organisation’s move came after the Minister for Health announced further cuts in payments to GPs of about 7.5 per cent on average under financial emergency legislation
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has undertaken before the High Court to suspend, pending the outcome of legal proceedings, plans by its GP members to withdraw from certain services in protest at new fee cuts.
In order to ensure a speedy hearing of the full case, the IMO also undertook to remove from its website a July 10th press release announcing the withdrawal decision and to inform its members of its undertaking within two days.
The undertakings apply pending the outcome of a full hearing of proceedings in which the Competition Authority alleges the planned withdrawal, announced on July 8th, is in breach of competition law.
Douglas Clarke, for the IMO, told Mr Justice John Cooke yesterday that the undertaking was without prejudice to his side’s defence of those proceedings which, he stressed, would be “fully defended”. The IMO regarded the authority’s claims as “misplaced”.
Mr Clarke said the IMO had decided to provide the undertakings rather than get immersed in a possibly protracted hearing of the authority’s application for injunctions aimed at preventing the GPs withdrawing until the court had decided the matter.
When the injunction application came before the judge earlier, Michael Cush SC, also for the IMO, and Niamh Hyland SC, for the authority, indicated there were discussions between the sides. The agreement which resulted in the undertakings was put before the judge about two hours later with the effect the injunction application did not proceed.
The judge also approved a timetable for exchange of pretrial legal documents and returned the matter for further directions to October 29th.
Ms Hyland indicated she may call evidence from economists as to the economic impact of the proposed withdrawal and the authority’s claims it would distort competition.
The authority previously set a deadline of midday on Monday last week for the IMO to publish an undertaking to reverse its plan for action. After the IMO’s solicitors said it would not be provided, the authority filed proceedings.
In its action, the authority claims the IMO’s decision to withdraw the relevant services with a view to preventing Minister for Health James Reilly from reducing the fees payable under the GMS contract is prohibited under both Irish and EU competition law.
The IMO move came after the Minister announced further cuts in payments to GPs of about 7.5 per cent on average under financial emergency legislation.