HSE to woo new hospital doctors with starting salaries of up to €155,000
A MAJOR recruitment drive to hire around 150 hospital consultants on starting salaries ranging from €120,000 to €155,000 is to get under way in a bid to cut waiting lists.
The increased salary scales for newly recruited specialists - who had suffered a 30pc cut in 2012 - follow lengthy talks at the Labour Relations Commission.
However, the doctors' union, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), withdrew agreement.
It said it is still unclear how medics with previous experience, some of whom are working in top hospitals abroad, will be assessed for higher entry-grade pay.
Under the improved salaries the doctors will eventually see their pay rise to €175,000, with those who work full-time in public hospitals earning most.
The 2012 cuts had seen starting salaries cut to around €116,000 and the Department of Health conceded it was too low to attract specialists to work in hospitals.
The HSE said it is now preparing to begin advertising the posts.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar (right) said the salaries of up to €175,000 at the top of the scale are "comparable" to the pay in other English-speaking countries.
"It is a very good salary by anyone's reckoning. I do hope the IMO will recognise this and come behind it."
There were 198 consultants' posts vacant and just 45 of these have been filled. Some 43 have yet to be advertised and another 79 are already in progress.
In 27 cases there was no successful applicant or the doctor who applied withdrew. Another four vacancies are on hold or withdrawn.
The knock-on effect has been that patients who have been without permanent doctors are waiting longer for specialist care although the jobs are filled by locums in many cases.
The HSE said the experienced consultants who take up posts here will get starting salaries of up to €155,000.
But the IMO said the criteria for higher pay are vague, and it wants to be involved in drawing them up.
The proposals also allow for doctors to apply for posts as heads of departments in hospitals if they have five years experience, with salaries starting at €170,000.
A clinical director's post would have a salary of €190,000.
A consultant who is also entitled to top-up their earnings would start at €120,000 at least and their full salary would rise to €141,000 over their career.
The first to benefit will be the consultants who were hired since October 2012 on the lower salaries. Their pay will jump as they get an instant annual raise of around €9,000.
The HSE said it believed doctors will respond and start applying for the jobs.
But the IMO insisted the HSE is "not serious" about tackling the recruitment crisis for consultants.
Director of Industrial Relations Steve Tweed said: "The HSE seems to think that it can ignore the extraordinary demand that exists internationally for Irish-trained doctors and simply carry on putting forward proposals that will not solve the problem.
"The reality is that our doctors see better jobs with better pay and better conditions across the world and they are voting with their feet."
He said the IMO would be prepared to re-engage in talks with the HSE if it could demonstrate that it was prepared to work with the union to tackle the problem.
"We want to create a health service which serves the needs of patients and the wider community.
"We believe we can help the HSE tackle this recruitment crisis but we need them to engage seriously and constructively with us on this critical agenda. They are not doing that now."
A report to be published by the Medical Council today is expected to confirm the high numbers of Irish-trained doctors who are going abroad.
By the middle of July around 3,000 certificates of competence of professional status had been issued to doctors by the Medical Council over the previous 19 months.
These are normally sought by doctors who are planning to go to another country and need to have all of their credentials on hand.
Doctors are not just attracted by the pay but also the working conditions in hospitals in countries such as Canada and Australia.
They also compare the working hours, waiting lists and pressures felt in our overcrowded facilities.