Some 30 private hospital consultants in Ireland lack full specialist training
Up to 30 consultants are working in private hospitals in Ireland even though they do not have full specialist training, the Irish Independent has learned.
The doctors are fully qualified medics, many with years of experience, but they are not on the specialist Medical Council register, which signals they have completed higher training.
Patient safety concerns have recently emerged about the hiring of non-specialist doctors in consultant posts which it was believed was confined to public hospitals due to the problems in recruitment.
However, the Private Hospitals Association confirmed a significant number are employed in private hospitals also.
A spokesman for the association said it was now taking issue with claims by Health Minister Simon Harris that the number runs into hundreds.
Mr Harris claimed 650 consultants without full specialist training were on the medical register but 120 of these were working in public hospitals and the rest in the private sector.
But the spokesman said: "The Private Hospitals Association has written to the Minister for Health seeking an explanation to his recent assertions regarding the specialist register."
He said the vast majority of these doctors were already working in private hospitals before March 2008 when specialist training and registration became mandatory for employment as a consultant.
"The remainder are engaged in the process of joining the specialist register. Many of these consultants also hold public posts," he added.
A spokeswoman for Vhi Insurance said it had "not registered or paid professional fees benefit to any doctor whose name and details do not appear on the specialist register since 2009.
"If the consultant is not on the specialist register maintained by the Medical Council then he/she is not registered with Vhi Insurance and we will not pay either the hospital accommodation charges or the associated professional fees."
Dr Peadar Gilligan, president of the Irish Medical Organisation, said: "The high number of non-specialists working in consultant roles in Irish hospitals highlights the recruitment and retention crisis in the profession."
He added: "I have huge sympathy for the individual doctors working in these roles and I have no doubt that they are doing their very best for their patients but the numbers involved are simply unacceptable.
"This situation was entirely predictable given the difficulties the HSE is having in attracting applicants for consultant roles and the continuing high levels of emigration amongst newly qualified doctors.
"Each and every member of Government must take responsibility for the decisions made to unilaterally breach contracts and introduce a two-tier pay system."
The difficulty in recruiting doctors on the specialist register was linked to paying a new consultant recruited to a public hospital 30pc less than a colleague simply based on the date they were hired, he added.