IMO votes for reform after controversy over former chief

Doctors also call on Reilly to produce guidelines on abortion legislation

Incoming president of the Irish Medical Organisation Dr Trevor Duffy (left) with outgoing president Dr Matthew Sadlier  at the IMO annual conference at Carton House Hotel in Maynooth today. Photograph: Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Incoming president of the Irish Medical Organisation Dr Trevor Duffy (left) with outgoing president Dr Matthew Sadlier at the IMO annual conference at Carton House Hotel in Maynooth today. Photograph: Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 00:39

The Irish Medical Organisation is to ballot its 5,000 members on whether they want to press ahead with a proposed review into how the organisation was run over recent years.

If approved the review would look at how the doctors’ trade union came to have a potential financial liability of more than €20 million in relation to its former chief executive who left in late 2012.

The review would also examine payments to third parties as well as expenses and other spending. An extraordinary general meeting of the IMO last year decided to conduct the retrospective review but work on this was later suspended by the organisation’s governing council amid concerns about costs and legal difficulties in relation to making any findings.

Following a three-hour private session at its conference in Maynooth tonight it was decided to put the issue of the review out to the full membership.

The IMO’s council has not yet decided on whether to make a recommendation.

Meanwhile doctors also voted to overhaul comprehensively their trade union in the aftermath of the controversy over the departure of its former chief executive.

Members of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) tonight backed reforms to the constitution and rules of the organisation.

The IMO has faced internal difficulties over the last year since it emerged that former chief executive George McNeice retired with a financial package worth almost €10 million.

Under his contract Mr McNeice could have received an overall package of close to €25 million, but this was reduced following negotiations.

After deliberating for nearly three hours a private sessionof the IMO’s annual conference in Maynooth is still considering whether to press ahead with a review of how the organisation was run over recent years.

As part of the new reforms a new executive board will be established which for the first time will include non-executive directors with expertise in audit and risk.

There will also be increased oversight of the financial administration of the organisation including the annual disclosure of the salary of the chief executive.

There will also be changes to the arrangements for paying stipends and expenses and these details will also be published annually.

The IMO has also called on the Minister for Health James Reilly to publish urgently guidelines for doctors in respect of the Governent’s legislation on the protection of life during pregnancy.

Proposing the motion at its annual conference the organisation’s president Dr Matthew Sadlier said that at present the act was in place but doctors had no guidelines on how it should be implemented.

He said doctors were currently operating in a vacuum.

“The analogy I would use is that it is a bit like somebody sitting their driving test and instead of getting the rules of the road booklet, they had to use the road traffic act as the reference document on what was legaland not legal.”

Dr Sadlier said the Government should not have enacted the legisaltion without the guidelines being ready.

However while the motion was passed, other doctors were concerned at the momve.

GP Dr Rita O’Connor expressed concern about rushing a process and said there was a need to get it right.

“I think it shouldbe given adequate time,” she said.

Separately the IMO conference also called on the Government to establish an expert committee to examine the effects, both positive and negative, of cannabis use and production in Ireland.

Dr Cathal O’Sullivan said the issue of pyschoactive substance abuse was a verycontroversial one,especiallyin Ireland.

He said the issue had recently been brought to a head when a bill was tabled inthe Dail to de-criminalise andregulate cannabis.

“Some of the statements that were made in the Dail were really quite frightening, in terms of their accuracy and in terms of the effects of cannabis both positive and negative.

“Even our Minister for Health made some strange comments in the chamber that would not have been out of place in the reefer madness and stuff like that and that type of propaganda.”

He said there was a need for an objective look at a drug which one person in four inthe country will have tried at some stage.

“This motion is not about whether we de-criminalise the drug but about having having an objective look at the evidence around this drug.”