SOME hospital consultants will be more than €50,000 better off by retiring on February 29 instead of a day later, March 1, due to the cuts in public sector pensions coming into effect.
Their retirement lump sum would drop from €339,691 to €288,738 if they hesitated for just one day, figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal.
Consultants with long service are among health service staff due to avail of the early retirement incentive, which will see their lump sum and pension calculated on their salary before the public service pay cut.
Around 48 hospital consultants from around the country have indicated they will retire.
Those who stand to gain most are the highest-paid consultants working in full-time public practice, with 40 years' service.
A hospital consultant with full retirement entitlements, currently earning €192,492 a year, will have their benefits calculated on their 'pre-cut' salary of €226,461.
Their pension will be €101,824 -- but this will drop to €96,246 if they wait until March or later to retire.
Those hospital consultants with 40 years' service, but on a lower public salary as they can also treat private patients, would lose €43,000 in their lump sum by waiting.
Instead they will walk away with a lump sum of €307,764 based on their pre-cut salary of €205,176.
Consultants in this group would also see their pension drop from €93,310 to €88,000 by waiting until March to retire.
Meanwhile, the number of staff indicating they may avail of early retirement from major hospitals varies widely, preliminary figures indicate.
A snapshot survey of several hospitals was carried out by the Irish Independent:
• Just 29 of St James's Hospital's 3,446 staff indicated they would retire ahead of the February 29 deadline.
• Thirty-three of Beaumont Hospital's 2,800 staff said they would go early.
• Nine of Tallaght Hospital's 2,433 staff plan to retire.
• A total of 42 of St Vincent's Hospital's 2,363 staff will go.
• Just 12 of the Mater Hospital's 2,414 indicated they would retire.
• A total of 20 of the National Maternity Hospital's 788 staff are set to leave.
• A dozen of the Coombe Hospital's 721 staff will retire early.
Overall, more than 3,000 health staff may leave.
Meanwhile, contingency plans are being put in place to cope with possible service gaps linked to the departure of staff.