50 agency medics get paid wages of €300,000 annually
THE failure of many hospitals to attract doctors to vacant jobs means around 50 agency medics are earning €300,000 a year to maintain patient care.
Health Minister James Reilly also admitted that some junior doctors are abandoning contract training jobs in favour of joining an agency.
They are paid high rates and may have a "view to getting out of the country", he said.
Agency doctors can be paid around €1,000 a day. Cash-strapped hospitals have paid out an additional €26m in agency costs so far this year.
Dr Tony O'Connell, the HSE's Director of Acute Hospitals, said there is a particular problem with vacancies for qualified consultants in Limerick and Galway.
He was replying to Labour TD Ciara Conway who highlighted the lack of dermatologists in the south east forcing patients to travel to Cork to be seen by specialists.
"We are still constrained by the realities of the number of consultants we have in the system," he said. It was not possible for the dermatologists in Cork to travel to Waterford because they can only work so many hours, he added.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail's spokesman on children, Robert Troy, said he was concerned after receiving information that half of all ambulances on the road have more than 240,000kms on the clock.
"I am gravely concerned about the ability of the ambulance fleet to carry out its important work properly," he said.
Figures released by the HSE at the Oireachtas Health Committee show that over half of all emergency ambulances have travelled over 240,000kms, while almost one in three have clocked up 320,000kms.
He added: "There have been a number of incidents in recent months whereby ambulances have broken down with very ill patients on board. The latest case happened on Saturday when an ambulance carrying a patient on life support came to a halt on the M1 motorway.
"The ambulance was only 10 minutes into its journey between Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and St James' Hospital in Dublin when the incident happened.
"This is an extremely serious situation and raises questions about the safety of the fleet. Garda vehicles have to be retired once they reach 300,000kms, yet there are 84 emergency ambulances on Irish roads with more than 320,000kms on the odometer."