08 Aug 2018

‘You Are Not Immune’ By Dr Niall Cahill (GP)

  • General Interest

A UCD graduate who had worked all over Ireland, the UK and Middle East, Dr Niall Cahill and his GP wife Paula found their home in Limerick and set up a practice in 2001.

They built it up from scratch (initially at a time when GMS lists were not available) and there was a huge amount of work involved to get it to an operational level.

Having worked extensively in student health in the UK, Dr Cahill was appointed Medical Director of Student Health at the University of Limerick during the year 2000. Between these two roles, life was extremely busy with work and family commitments and his days were constantly booked.

Unfortunately towards the end of 2014 Dr Cahill was diagnosed with a serious illness that would require emergency surgery. Such was nature of the condition, there was no time to prepare for his essential sick leave. Work had to cease with immediate effect and there would be an extensive period of convalescence ahead.

Fortuitously, on the back of an overall financial review, Dr Cahill and his wife had taken out income protection policies some years before. As is often the case, he thought he would never have to use it and was taking it out to be prudent.

He was drawn to the DG Mutual policy as he felt their focus on the medical community was the best fit for his profession. There was simply no equivalent alternative within the Irish market. He felt it was at a good price point which was very important when both were taking it out.

‘Neither Paula nor I had any medical issues…no red or orange flags’

Viewing it as routine, the couple completed the underwriting process without issue, neither had experienced any medical issues to that point. Healthwise, having had such a relatively smooth experience in their lives to that point, it made the eventual diagnosis an even greater bolt out of blue.

‘Substantial financial pressure’

Locums had to be drafted in immediately to cover Dr Cahill’s patients. The practice’s patients were used to a male/female split and niche specialties were catered for such as minor surgery, joint injections etc. There needed to be a continuity of care and locums were required to fill that gap.

He explained that while he received a small benefit from the HSE it didn’t go near the lost earnings experienced. There were massive locum costs and there needed to be an income to cover them. He also explained that if you have other financial variables such as mortgages, a family, education etc, they still have to be paid. Critically so do health insurance premiums. His income protection policy ensured that he didn’t need to worry about this in addition to his illness.

‘Amenable & Accessible’

One of Dr Cahill’s early priorities was to contact the DG Mutual Claims team. He found them to be very responsive and the claim was organised without question or quibble. At no point did he need to fight his corner, meaning that he could concentrate on his recovery and unburden himself in relation to the financial consequences of being unable to work. He found his DG contact person to be refreshingly understanding and fair at a time when he needed it most.

‘Your work requires you to be at the top of your game’

Dr Cahill knew that a return to work could not be rushed as being 100% fit for practice is essential: ‘you have to have your wits about you when taking onboard the care and welfare of other people’.

As time went on and his recovery progressed, he became eager to return to his work in some capacity. A quick call to the claims team confirmed that he could do so and adjust his benefit according to the proportion of time he was working during a given week. This will remain the case until such time that he is able to return to work, right up until retirement.

‘This is really necessary if you are self-employed…as all GPs are’

In closing, Dr Cahill references the fact that nobody wants to contemplate these kinds of scenarios, however as a medical professional you can’t assume to know when something is happening and that you are not immune.