Labour piles pressure on Reilly to target consultants
PUBLIC Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin last night heaped pressure on cabinet colleague James Reilly to rein in spending on consultants' pay.
Amid public outcry over the €130m health cuts detailed on Thursday, Dr Reilly made his first public appearance yesterday at a media doorstep.
The Health Minister declared that the public pay bill was the "elephant in the room" and reiterated that 70pc of his department's budget went on wages. He said high earners must shoulder some of the burden.
But Labour chiefs hit out at Dr Reilly, with parliamentary party chair Jack Wall saying he had done nothing about consultants' pay in his 18 months as a minister.
Mr Wall added: "The Croke Park Agreement is in relation to people that are not on the money that James Reilly is talking about.
"The ones that James Reilly is talking about are the consultants and he knows himself well that needs to be tackled and should be tackled."
The Programme for Government between Fine Gael and the Labour Party provided for a reduction in pay for hospital consultants, but the minister is pushing for a deal on greater flexibilities.
Mr Howlin also weighed in last night by saying that Dr Reilly's department must engage with consultants to ensure savings are delivered.
His spokeswoman said: "The minister (Mr Howlin) is strongly in agreement that the highest-paid public servants, who are hospital consultants, should form part of the solution to the issue of cost over-runs in the health sector."
Tanaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore was asked yesterday why consultants' pay had not been cut.
He said: "There are difficult budget decisions that have to be made but again the priority has to be the needs of the people who are in need of services."
A spokesman for Dr Reilly said the minister spent yesterday morning in meetings with the HSE before addressing the media.