The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has had to defend its financial position amid concerns about its ongoing viability.
At its AGM in Cork yesterday, outgoing NAGP president Dr Emmet Kerin said members had voiced concerns in a number of areas, including the association's financial viability; it's relationship with MSC Eurocare, an organisation that helps patients get medical treatment abroad, and use of its "fighting fund" , money collected from members to fight legal cases.
Dr Kerin said he wanted to address these issues as the NAGP had as its genesis a desire "to be different in terms of being transparent and upfront".
He said an emergency meeting had taken place, at which all members of the NAGP national council were present, and they had come up with a plan of action around what needed to be done. He said some of this had been communicated to members.
He described the issues raised as "very serious". He said the organisation had produced audited accounts to show that it was solvent "so there isn't an issue there".
In terms of the NAGP's relationship with MSC Eurocare, he said national council had taken the view some time ago that it should champion the EU Cross Border Directive on Healthcare to give access to patients on waiting lists for procedures such as cataract removal or knee replacements. He said their relationship with MSC involved giving advice on what hospitals the NAGP thought were appropriate for people to attend.
"And in that capacity, members of the NAGP went to hospitals and looked at them." He said while accommodation and travel expenses were covered, and GPs did endorse certain hospitals, "there wasn't any fee or money taken in terms of gratuity". He said it was "above board".
In relation to the NAGP's "fighting fund", he said they had raised 168,000e from members - well off its one million euro target- and had ended up spending 220,000e, "mostly on the under sixes case". The NAGP launched a legal challenge to the HSE's plan for free GP care for under sixes. It wanted the scheme postponed until the NAGP had the opportunity to negotiate on behalf of its members.
However it withdrew its challenge following advice that it was likely to fail and the association would be liable for costs.
Dr Kerin said they also took advice on a number of other legal cases. He said they had commissioned "an independent case study of this and we can bring that detail to you as to where that money went."
Referring to four resignations from the national council and national executive, including incoming president Dr Yvonne Williams; chair of communications, Dr Liam Glynn, and GPs Dr Lucia and Dr Shane Corr, Dr Kerin said serving on the council was a "fulltime job" and "you can appreciate that there can be frustrations in that".
"We did lose members and that's a regret," he said.
The AGM continues today. The chairman's report and the CEO's report - Dr Andrew Jordan and Dr Chris Goodey respectively - will be put before the members.
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