Independent practitioner

Dr Keith Redmond is a general practitioner in Sutton in Dublin.

Can you tell me about your background?
I grew up in Finglas in Dublin, and graduated from Trinity College in 1996. I immediately went, with I’d say 80% of my class, to England, and worked in London for two years in a very busy NHS practice. It was frenetic stuff, but I gained an enormous amount of experience. I came back to work with Dr Paddy O’Brien in Clontarf, but he unfortunately passed away soon afterwards and the practice was closed down. However, I was lucky enough to be able to buy a practice in Sutton, and I’ve been here ever since.

What led you to get involved in the IDA and how did that involvement progress?
I kept my IDA membership up even though I was in England. When I came home, I used to go to the local IDA meetings, and got to know Art McGann and Enda Concannon, who were stalwarts of the IDA in the area. Enda encouraged me to get involved, and I was drafted into a position on the Council, where I found myself on negotiating teams with the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Health, which was a steep learning curve. I did that for about a year, but then the practice took off and so I reigned in my activity with the IDA. I do still attend meetings, however.

What has been the biggest benefit of IDA membership for you?
I think just knowing you’re not on your own, especially when it comes to dealing with the HSE or the Government. Even though we have limited gains, we do get some gains, the most recent being the increase in fees for the medical card. It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly better than what was there. Those things would not have happened without the IDA campaigns and dentists pulling out of the contract.
It’s really difficult for dentists because we’re so siloed in our little rooms. It’s difficult for us to find the time for the IDA as well, but it’s important in a bigger sense to stay involved and engaged in what it’s trying to do.

What are the big issues you think the Association needs to focus on?
I know that they are focused on getting some kind of Scheme that would be far better than the medical card scheme. Whether they’ll have any success in that I don’t know. I’d be quite pessimistic, but they should obviously be engaging with that as much as they possibly can. I think the IDA is sensible in that we’ve all learned a lesson from the crash in recognising how low a priority we are for Government. We’ve now built, over the last 12 years, successful private practices, and there’s a refreshing aspect to that. It allows you flexibility with materials and flexibility with procedures, and effectively allows you to provide better care for patients. Obviously, there are people who get left behind with that, who can’t afford it. But at the same time, from the dentist’s point of view, I would imagine there’s going to be a reluctance to join any new Government scheme.
The IDA should also focus on engaging with the universities and the Dental Council to increase the domestic and foreign supply of dentists, hygienists and therapists. Our focus should be on removing all barriers to registration and increasing the frequency of the State exam for foreign graduates. Also, the IDA should publicly push for more dentists and hygienists to be graduated by TCD and UCC, and potentially call for other institutions to graduate them too, for example the RCSI.

How would you like to see the Association progress in the future?
I think they should focus on independent practice. I think they should disengage with the Government, and let political pressure build from the ground up, from the constituents. That’s how the medical card prices were changed recently. The constituents applied pressure, and that’s the only thing that’s going to work.

Keith lives in Dublin with his wife Sarah and three children – two sons aged three and five, and a new baby daughter – so life is very busy. When he’s not working, or spending time with the family, the former county councillor still has some involvement in local politics.