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Wednesday 28 June 2017

Reilly warns salaries of consultants must be cut

Association says attack on pay will lead to serious shortage of doctors

Daniel McConnell , CHIEF REPORTER, EXCLUSIVE

Health Minister Dr James Reilly has this weekend declared war on hospital consultants saying their six-figure salaries must be reduced to reflect the country's economic woes.

Following the disclosure on Friday that one hospital consultant received more than €1m in fees from the VHI, and 138 others received more than €300,000 each, Dr Reilly has confirmed he has begun the process of reducing pay in the sector.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Independent, Dr Reilly said he will not tolerate a situation whereby medical inflation of nine per cent goes unchallenged.

"I want to see the cost of procedures driven down to reflect the reality of our current economic situation," he said.

Dr Reilly has confirmed that he has commissioned an empirical study to weed out the practice of ever spiralling costs and as part of that he is pressing ahead with the break up of the VHI.

He said: "Clearly I am concerned at the year on year increase in costs. There seems to be an acceptance that nine per cent medical inflation is inevitable. I don't buy that."

In the programme for government, Mr Reilly committed to reducing the pay of the 2,300 consultants in Ireland, and has confirmed that the process has commenced.

"Under a new consultant's contract, hospital consultants' remuneration will be reduced. Action will be taken to reduce the cost of procurement for medical equipment and construction of facilities," it states.

According to latest information, 27 non-academic hospital consultants were paid more than €250,000 each last year by the HSE.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan recently confirmed that there were 28 people in the public service who were earning more than €250,000 a year in addition to an unspecified number of "academic consultants" working for the HSE.

These would include professors who get paid for lecturing as well as for treating patients. It is still unclear how many of these earn more than €250,000 a year.

It has now emerged that non-academic consultants as well as academic consultants are also earning these amounts from the HSE.

For their part, the consultants have warned any attack on their salaries will lead to a further drop in doctors from next July, which they say will undermine the safety of public health services and impact on how patients are treated.

The Irish Hospital Consultant's Association has expressed its grave concerns at the potential shortfall of a further 400 non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) from next July, a reduction which, it pointed out, had been confirmed by the HSE.

"We have already seen a steady and significant decline in NCHD numbers in the past 12-18 months, with hundreds of positions already not being filled," a spokesperson for IHCA said.

"The HSE is also experiencing difficulties in retaining and recruiting hospital consultants. Any further decline in medical staffing will undermine the safety of the public health services and its capacity to treat patients. These much sought after doctors are now working in other countries where their talents are more valued, or are simply retiring early."

"That, coupled with cuts of 30-40 per cent in consultant salaries to date and threats of further salary cuts, make Ireland increasingly unattractive. There are better terms and conditions on offer abroad.

"This will undermine the capacity of the public health service to treat patients at a time of increasing demand," they said.

Sunday Independent

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