HOSPITAL consultants who will sit on controversial panels to assess if a pregnant woman should receive an abortion are to be paid €120 an hour for the work.
The obstetricians and psychiatrists have volunteered to take part in review panels to examine the case of pregnant women seeking an abortion under new legislation.
It allows for a termination of pregnancy where there is a real and substantial threat to the life of the woman, including risk of suicide.
If the woman is refused an abortion following an initial assessment, doctors from the panel will be asked to examine her appeal.
The Department of Health told the Irish Independent that if the doctor is in private practice, and not directly employed by the public health service in a hospital or community facility, they will get an hourly fee of €120 up to a maximum of €415 a day. Private or retired doctors who also have to provide documentation in relation to the case will get the same level of fees.
A GP who is asked to attend will be given an hourly rate of €60, subject to a maximum of €197.24 a day for the work, the department confirmed.
Obstetricians and psychiatrists who are employed in a public hospital and who are part of the panels will not receive an additional payment unless it is outside their normal hours.
In that case they will get an emergency call-out fee.
The spokesman said all the doctors would be entitled to travel and subsistence payments.
The fees paid to doctors are the same as those provided to medics who act as expert witnesses in court covering an examination and first report.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, passed last July and effective from January 1, allows for doctors to intervene where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of a pregnant woman, including the threat of suicide.
It says two doctors must confirm a physical risk to the woman -- although in medical emergencies one doctor can decide.
In the case where a woman seeks an abortion on the grounds of suicide risk, three doctors -- one obstetrician and two psychiatrists -- must agree to the procedure.
However, if she is turned down, the woman can appeal to another review panel. The Health Service Executive (HSE) must maintain a list of doctors who can be drawn on to sit on these panels.
Obstetricians and psychiatrists have been sent application forms by the HSE asking them to volunteer for the panels but it is yet unclear how many have done so.
The HSE is refusing to provide numbers to show the level of interest among doctors in the work and also to name any of the doctors involved.