- 31 Jul 19
"One would have to question her role as Minister with a value system like this," says one doctor, in response to the Josepha Madigan letter. But he is just one of many who are in revolt against what has been described as a "pathetic" letter.
The Minister for Culture, Heritage & The Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, has been criticised for boasting that she’s blocked a new methadone clinic in her Dublin Rathdown constituency.
It comes less than a week after Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin accused her ministerial colleague, Catherine Byrne, of not doing enough to push through the pilot Dublin medically Supervised Injecting Facility, the opening of which is – or is supposed to be – official government policy.
“I am pleased to reassure residents that following representation from my office to the Department of Health, I have been informed that a new methadone clinic will not be developed at the Ballinteer Health Centre as the existing services are adequate,” Josepha Madigan enthuses in a constituency newsletter. “I know many people were concerned about the prospect following the closure of the methadone clinic in Baggot Street. The health centre is used by many local residents and would not be suitable as a methadone clinic.”
Given the very obvious signs of heroin use in the constituency, Hot Press can’t help but feel that some of the people desperately needing methadone services would have been local residents.
Those decidedly unhappy with Minister Madigan include Dublin GP Dr. Mark Murphy.
“This is shocking from a FG minister,” he says. “Actually celebrating the removal of a healthcare service for a vulnerable patient group.
“I’d rarely go this far,” he continues, “but one would have to question her role as Minister with a value-system like this.
“It’s terrible. Her own constituents. Opiate replacement therapy is a normal part of our public healthcare services. Would she campaign to not have PHN wound dressings as an example? It’s about ‘the people involved’... and that says something very distasteful.”
Those sentiments are echoed by another Dublin GP, Maitu O Tuathail, who is also highly critical of Josepha Madigan.
“This is so disappointing,” he says. “Openly celebrating and taking credit for the removal of a vital service from such a vulnerable group. Ray Walley and Austin O’Carroll and many other GPs that work with methadone patients have repeatedly pointed out that the stigma this group faces is damaging.”
Paediatric radiologist Gabrielle Colleran is similarly outraged.
“I don’t have words for this,” she says. “That this is considered an achievement. Marginalisation, stigmatisation, removing access to an already vulnerable group. We are one community. And how we care for the most vulnerable reveals who we are as a community. We are better than this."
Addiction specialist Dr. Garrett McGovern adds: “As someone who has worked as a doctor in methadone treatment facilities for over 20 years, the residents have nothing to fear,” he says. “We've been providing these same services in Dundrum and Churchtown since 1998. The proposed one in Ballinteer was a relocation but will not happen now. The 'I am pleased to reassure' preface leaves no doubt about the intentions. This is yet another example of stigma being heaped on a marginalised, vulnerable group. Certainly not something to rejoice in."
Swords GP Conor McGrane sends this message to Josepha Madigan: "As a practicing GP who has worked in and has decades of experience in the treatment of addiction, I am very shocked and disappointed in your drive to stop the provision of methadone services to a sick and vulnerable cohort of your electorate. Very poor form indeed."
Clinical Fellow in Geriatric Medicine, Dr Mary Ní Lochlainn, offers the succinct: "Pathetic. Shame on you."
Darach Ó Ciardha, a GP working in Jobstown and Tallaght Cross, says: "I’m sorry, but Fine Gael can’t simultaneously promote Sláinte Care and its laudable principles of 'right care, right time, right place' and permit Ministers to issue frankly stigmatising missives to constituents relating to citizens on methadone treatment programmes."
Tom O'Dowd, Emeritus Professor of General Practice at Trinity College Dublin, proffers: "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. GPs are right to call out poorly-informed political leadership."