Doctors’ organisation in crisis as president and council step down

GP body admits financial difficulties as resigning team cites governance issues

National Association of General Practitioners president Dr Maitiu O’Tuathail said he had resigned as he had ‘grave concerns’ with regards to the organisation’s governance. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

National Association of General Practitioners president Dr Maitiu O’Tuathail said he had resigned as he had ‘grave concerns’ with regards to the organisation’s governance. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

 

The president and the national council of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) have resigned from the organisation over what they described as serious governance issues.

Separately, in what was described as an official statement, the NAGP on Sunday said it was experiencing financial difficulties but that its directors were remaining on and would seek to put in place a rescue package over the next fortnight to facilitate the continuation of the organisation.

The organisation, which previously said it represented up to 2,000 GPs, is operated as a company with directors and an advisory national council and president.

The president of the NAGP, Dr Maitiu O’Tuathail, said he had resigned from the organisation as he had “grave concerns” with regards to its governance.

In its own note to members, the national council said Dr O’Tuathail, Dr Dan Crowley, Dr Ronan Fawsitt, Dr Brid Walsh, Dr Tadhg O’Carroll, Dr Enda Ryan, Dr Stephen Murphy, Dr Lucinda Dockeray, Dr Mary Joyce Leader, Dr Adrian O Donovan and Dr Mairtin O’Maolain had all resigned.

The note said the NAGP believed in accountability, transparency and clear communication with members.

It said at the organisation’s annual general meeting in March last year concerns had been raised about the governance of the NAGP.

“Following this, the national council commissioned a governance report from Ampersand, which recommended a new governance structure for the organisation, and we had begun that journey.

‘Transparency and accountability’

“Subsequently, serious issues of internal governance were brought to the attention of the national council and the directors of the NAGP.

“Significant efforts were made to resolve these issues through a process of renewal, transparency and accountability. We regret and apologise to our members, that this was not achieved. As a result, the national council, whose role is advisory, have tendered their resignation to the directors.”

The NAGP official statement on Sunday did not make any reference to governance issues at the organisation. It suggested that financial difficulties had emerged as members had delayed renewing subscriptions as they waited to see the outcome of talks on a new GP deal under negotiation between the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and Government. Government representatives consulted with the NAGP in this process but the organisation was not involved in direct negotiations.

In recent weeks, the IMO and the Department of Health have agreed a new €210 million package of proposals for general practice.

The statement said it had “become evident over the past year that this Government will never allow the NAGP to sit at the negotiation table”.

“It has also become evident that the IMO and Department of Health enjoys a unique relationship.”

“Many GPs are waiting to see the details of the new offer before they renew their membership subscription. This has created financial difficulties for the NAGP.

‘Rescue package’

“The directors will strive to ensure that a rescue package will be in place within the next two weeks which will facilitate the continuation of the organisation and implement the recently commissioned Ampersand governance report.”

The NAGP said in its official statement that the national council had stepped down but the “directors remain at the helm”.

NAGP chairman Dr Andy Jordan said it was “three weeks since the announcement of the new contract and to date there is no sign of any contract or contractual document”.

“Until we see the contract document it is impossible to advise members.”

NAGP chief executive Chris Goodey on Sunday said its annual general meeting scheduled to take place in May was likely to be deferred for a few weeks.

He said it was the intention the organisation would continue in operation.

The developments on Sunday represent the second time the organisation has been hit by resignations over internal issues.

At its annual meeting last year its then president said a number of “valued members” had quit due to concerns over internal governance issues.

The conference was told the issues included the financial viability of the organisation, its links with a company which facilitated patients to access care abroad, and the use of a €168,000 fund collected from members.