Monday 18 November 2019

Stop saying it's all rosy, doctor tells Varadkar

Dr Garrett Durkan: cancer operations cancelled
Dr Garrett Durkan: cancer operations cancelled
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has been accused of painting "too rosy" a picture of the health service by a hospital consultant who said his cancer patients had their surgery cancelled this summer because of A&E overcrowding.

Dr Garrett Durkan, a urologist at University Hospital Galway, challenged the minister at the annual meeting of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA).

He said for the first time in the middle of summer, a number of operations scheduled for cancer patients had to be cancelled because of a lack of beds.

"The emergency department was filled to overflowing," he said. The patients had to have the surgery re-scheduled weeks later.

Dr Durkan later told the Irish Independent it is not good for patients psychologically to be built up for surgery and have it cancelled.

The minister had earlier asked the gathering of consultants in Tullamore "not to be critics of the health service but rather advocates for it.

"Tell people about the good work you are doing and how we could do more or even better," he added.

Responding to Dr Durkan, the minister said: "I apologise if I was too positive. But sometimes you are too negative."


It undermines patient confidence in the service, staff morale and makes his efforts to secure more funding more difficult, he said.

The minister said doctors should take note of savvy university lecturers "who are not going around saying their universities are a load of rubbish", even though there are problems in education.

Mr Varadkar also said he had visited the Galway hospital and had spoken to patients. It is "one of the most stressed hospitals in the country".

It is "frankly indefensible" to have patients on corridors, however, improvements are being made, he said.

Meanwhile, he again called on the consultants to carry out more weekend discharges of patients to help free up beds.

He also wants them to do more evening ward rounds to reduce length of stay.

Senior doctors need to review patients shortly after or before admission, in order to reduce unnecessary admissions and length of stay, he added.

Dr Gerard Crotty, President of the IHCA, said many doctors are working weekends and not getting the additional top-up payments they are entitled to under their contract for doing so.


The minister said pay for consultants will continue to improve over the next number of years. On January 1, a change in the pension levy will give €733 back to doctors in 2016, and €1,000 in subsequent years.

There will also be reductions in income tax and USC to boost take-home pay.

Consultants who have accepted the Haddington Road and Lansdowne Road agreements will have pay restored in three phases: April 2017, April 2018 and April 2019.

This represents pay restoration of about €12,000 to €13,000 per person. A consultant at the top of the scale who only treats public patients will be back up to €192,000 in April 2019.

Irish Independent

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