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GP contract leakage controversy pushes Varadkar into crisis

Controversy erupts in Ireland over details of GP deal leaked by Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to the medical lobby.

The controversy stemmed from Varadkar’s handing over a secret government document of a salary deal he had agreed to with the Irish Medical Organization to another group of doctors.

Varadkar has admitted to handing over the documents. However, Varadkar alleged that many of the references in the article were targeted.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Michael Martin also expressed dissatisfaction with the handing over of documents.

Chronology of the Controversy

October 12, 2018: The GP Committee of the Irish Medical Organization (IMO) decides to discuss the crisis in general practice with the Department of Health.

Discussions focused on funding for GPs, updating the 50-year-old contract, and financial cuts implemented by Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Fempi).

The Fempi cuts to GPs during the recession caused major problems for doctors and patients. This led to a huge protest in front of the Dáil.

However, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) GP was not involved in the contract negotiations.

NAGP is an organization of about 2,000 GPs, founded in 2013. Opposition to the IMO led to the birth of the organization.

April 5, 2019: The IMO publicly announced the government-approved agreement in a press release.

The statement said General Practice would receive an additional 210 million in the coming years as part of talks between the IMO and the government.

Between April 11 and April 16, 2019, the then Prime Minister Leo Varadkar handed over a copy of the agreement to his friend and head of the NAGP, Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail.

April 16, 2019: The deal was discussed at the Dáil.

Stephen Donnelly, Fianna Fáil ‘s health spokesman at the time, said the draft agreement was approved two weeks ago and that the GPs and the public had not seen it.

April 17, 2019: Former NAGP chairman Andrew Jordan tweets that the deal is a great announcement but that it is really confusing to GPs and that GPs want to see it.

At the same time, Dr Ó Tuathail  made the necessary amendments to a picture of the contract in his own handwriting and posted it in a NAGP members group. A copy of the agreement stated that it was confidential and not to be transferred.

May 17, 2019: The Department of Health publishes a contract for GP contract renewal.

The agreement between the Department of Health, HSE and the IMO included details of new services, including a chronic diagnostic program starting in 2020.

October 31, 2020: Village Magazine published an article with screen shots of the courier of the contract details for Dr Ó Tuathail send by Varadkar.

Subsequently, Varadkar issued a statement confirming that he had shared the contract.

Varadkar responded that the references in the article were inaccurate and highly defamatory as the agreement was approved and its essential details were publicly announced.

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