Sunday 16 June 2019

Taoiseach defends use of private investigators to uncover 'moonlighting' hospital consultants

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended the use of private investigators to snoop on hospital consultants in effort to fight a High Court pay claim.

The move has been described as an “abuse of power” by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin – but the Government is not for budging.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that the State has an obligation to ensure that it is getting value for taxpayers’ money.

He claimed some consultants have been found to breach their contracts and are “moonlighting” in private hospitals.

The Taoiseach said that in these cases doctors are seeing more private patients than they should be and “that is money and time that should be dedicated to public patients”.

Around 700 hospital consultants have challenged a state decision to with-hold pay increases promised to them under the terms of a 2008 contract.

But Mr Varadkar said their case would not stand up if it was found that they broke their contracts as well.

He added that the State has welfare inspectors who check that people are genuinely disabled, and tax inspectors who “check up on people in all walks of society”.

He also cited a case where Revenue officials counted the number of bags of chips being taken from a chip shop to ensure they were compliant.

However, Mr Martin the use of private investigators “sets a sinister and dangerous precedent”.

He questioned whether Health Minister Simon Harris was aware of the approach adopted by the HSE.

“You cannot play fast and loose with people’s rights under the Data Protection Act,” he said.

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