Pubdate: Thu, 28 Dec 2000
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2000 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Kitty Holland


General practitioners who dispense methadone to heroin addicts are
threatening not to cooperate with the new drugs courts, because of
their pay and working conditions.

The drugs courts, which would offer rehabilitation instead of prison
to drug addicts who are convicted of criminal offences, are scheduled
to begin operation on January 9th.

Some 89 per cent of heroin addicts on methadone maintenance programmes
in the Eastern Regional Health Authority region are treated by GPs.

According to Dr Cathal O'Sullivan, spokesman for GPs Specialising in
Substance Abuse (GPSSA), these GPs are working "with no contracts,
minimum legal entitlements in relation to holiday and sick leave, no
study leave, no contribution to medical indemnity and no provision for

The majority, although working virtually full time in drugtreatment
clinics, are understood to be employed on a sessional basis, so they
are paid for each session worked rather than being employed on a
contract or permanent basis.

The GPs do not intend withdrawing treatment from those already on
methadone maintenance plans.

However, most offenders sent for treatment by the drugs courts would
expect to be treated by a GP.

The Irish Medical Organisation is due to begin negotiations with the
Eastern Regional Health Authority on the issues in the new year.

The GPs are also concerned that although they have some input into
day-to-day management of clinics, they have "little or no access to
senior management in relation to planning and policy making," said Dr

Many of these GPs, he added, "have devoted considerable time and
energy to training and developing their expertise in this complex field.

"The only way we now feel we can gain senior management's attention is
to make a move like boycotting the drugs courts," Dr O'Sullivan said.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake