IMO says body should be ashamed of itself for dubious practices (not them)

Today, Monday October 6th, the Irish Medical Organisation accused the HSE of elder abuse, through the practice of writing to older people and requiring them to write back to confirm their place on a waiting list, or lose their place.

This practice, they,say, was one of a number of such practices used by the HSE to massage waiting lists which have been highlighted in recent days.

Prof Trevor Duffy, the IMO President, said that the HSE should be ashamed of itself for engaging in such dubious practices, as indeed it should.

And, of course, it should be investigated, and whoever dreamed up this idea should be reprimanded, at the very least. An investigation into the way the HSE runs its lists, and the delaying practices in which it has engaged, is the only way to root out such mis-behaviour, and Prof Duffy is right about that.

Unfortunately, the IMO and Prof Duffy have no credibility in this regard, as it was only last Friday when he announced that the IMO would not investigate the greatest rip-off that possibly has ever occurred within any union in Ireland.

At the time, Prof Duffy said that he hoped we could put all this behind us and ‘focus’ on the issues, but the greatest issue at the moment is the credibility of the IMO in calling for investigations, and inquiries into issues, when it has completely refused to subject itself to the same process.

Firstly, it refused to do an investigation, any investigation, into what went on in the George McNeice era. Then, under pressure from its members, it promised to look into it, but then turned down the idea of an investigation again.

Finally it agreed after a lot of pressure was applied to hold a ballot. This is the Nice Treaty school of democracy. We’ll keep on changing the rules until you agree. They had no choice but to hold an ballot on an investigation with so many members calling for it. Even though it should have been as plain as the nose on your face that it wasn’t just needed, it was essential.

The only way out was to hold a ballot and campaign vigorously against such an outcome. Which is what they did. They didn’t offer members any choice other than Hobson’s. The investigation would cost millions, destroy the union etc. they said in the letter to members asking them to vote.

But here’s a reality check. There was no need for any investigation to cost that much. There were plenty of options if they really had any intention of having an inquiry, but they didn’t. So they gave the members no choice -we could do an investigation, but it would be terribly expensive, bad publicity – the end of the world.

Finally, on a very ‘dubious’ process – one which would find much favor with their apparent nemesis, the HSE – they announced the vote was very close, but no cigar. And we all have to take their word for that because they are honorable men. As George McNeice was, they are all honorable men.

Now I wasn’t at the counting process, and I don’t know of anyone outside the IMO who was, and maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I wonder why that is. Now, if I had been there, I still would have had my doubts.

Almost every senior member of the IMO I talked to didn’t want an investigation for fear of what it might expose. Many were ex-officers or current officers of the union. And I appreciate their fear.

In my experience, the members of the IMO (even the senior ones) were mainly good people who tried to do the right thing. But there were things that went on in the past that looked (there’s that word again) ‘dubious’, and a full examination of those things is needed and it is needed now.

The IMO is one of the most important lobby groups in the country – not just for doctors but for their patients. It’s vital that they have the respect and authority that would naturally flow to such an organisation. But how can we take them seriously when they want us to take them at their word on their own integrity?

This is a tragedy – not so much for Irish doctors – but for Irish patients. The world would have forgiven the IMO one rogue ex-CEO, and a few million euro that maybe should never have left union coffers, but people can’t take seriously a union (or any body) that refuses to come clean about its past.

Dr Ray Walley warned about the HSE referring patients back into primary care. He’s right about that. Here’s what he said: “The official policy at the moment seems to be to move patients around the system in the full knowledge that there are no resources to deal with them. It’s an appalling way to manage vulnerable people and we have to stop it now.”

Never a truer word was spoken. 

“IMO GPs have been calling for a planned and resourced introduction of Chronic Care to General Practice but we have yet to see any real resources attaching to unrealistic promises by politicians and the HSE”

Absolutely right.

But how can the IMO kettle call the HSE pot black and not itself be subject to ridicule and cynicism?

How can they call on the government to do anything when the government can smugly turn to them and say “Physicians, heal yourselves”.?

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