Tom O’Dowd, Emeritus Professor of General Practice at Trinity, has criticised the Minister for Culture, Heritage and The Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, after she wrote to constituents to inform them that she had successfully lobbied to prevent a methadone clinic being established in her Dublin Rathdown constituency.
O’Dowd joined the voices of several other medical professionals in criticising the government minister, saying that “GPs are right to call out poorly-informed political leadership”. He stated: “The most rewarding clinical work I’ve done over the last 20 years is providing a GP methadone service. Patients have gone on to become taxpayers, mothers & fathers.”
The letter from Madigan’s office to her constituents stated that she was “pleased to reassure” them that “following representation from [her] office to the Department of Health, [she had] been informed that a new methadone clinic will not be developed at the Ballinteer Health Centre as the existing services are adequate”.
The constituency newsletter went on to say “I know many people were concerned about the prospect following the closure of the methadone clinic in Baggot Street”, adding that the fact that the health centre is “by many local residents” it would therefore “not be suitable as a methadone clinic”.
Darach Ó Ciardha, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Health & Primary Care at Trinity and a GP in Tallaght Cross described the letter as “frankly stigmatizing” and told RTE Drivetime that it was important that patients be able to access care “close to their home as part of their community” and that people receiving methadone treatment “suffer from a real snobbery” in this country.
Several other General Practitioners also spoke out against the wording of the letter. Dr Mark Murphy, who is a GP at a family practice in Dublin as well as a lecturer at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI), said that Madigan’s letter was “shocking for a [Fine Gael] minister” and that she was “celebrating the removal of a healthcare service for a vulnerable patient group”.
Madigan has now issued a statement that the letter did not receive her “prior approval” despite it bearing her signature.
There are currently over 10,000 people receiving methadone treatment in Ireland.