Thursday 20 July 2017

IMO brings High Court challenge over decision to abolish €61 junior doctors allowance

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has brought a High Court challenge to the Government's decision to abolish an allowance worth €61 per week to junior doctors.

The IMO, a trade union representing some 3000 non consultant doctors claims a decision made by the Government in 2012 to abolish the 'Living Out Allowance' for new entrants which was paid where hospitals did not provide free accommodation to non consultants hospital doctors (NCHDs).

The Government's decision meant that as all junior hospital doctors are typically on short term contracts the allowance is no longer paid to any of its members.

The action is against the Ministers for Public Expenditure and Health as well as the Health Services Executive. They have denied the IMO claims.

In the proceedings, brought by both the IMO, and one of its members Dr Gabriel Beecham, it is claimed the abolition of the allowance breaches a settlement agreement it entered into in 2010 after it brought High Court proceedings against the HSE.

As part of that agreement it was agreed that NCHD's would receive the allowance. It is claimed that the Government said section 22( 4)of the 2004 Health Act allows them to abolish the allowance.

The court heard that the allowance was abolished by the then FG/LAb Government after the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform announced that savings had to be made in 2012 and subsequent years in regards to public service pay and numbers.

The allowance was abolished in 2012 after all Government Departments were required to achieve a 10 per cent reduction in overtime payments and 5 per cent in the cost of allowance payments.

Dr Beecham, who worked a number of contracts as a junior doctor at Beaumont and the Coombe hospitals in Dublin, and the IMO reject the claim that the 2004 Act allows them to abolish the allowance.

In their proceedings they seek declarations including that part of the 2004 Act does not entitle the Government to avoid the terms of the 2010 settlement agreement.

They also seek a declaration that the NCHDs are entitled to payment of the living out allowances.

Opening the action, Michael Cush SC for the IMO said the decision to abolish the allowance was taken "with no statutory basis cited at all. It was just done by the government."

The IMO had opposed the abolition, counsel said, but the matter has not been resolved.

The action before Mr Justice Paul McDermott continues.

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