Wednesday 11 December 2019

Consultants' pay is no mystery

Sir -- James Fitzsimons reports (Sunday Independent, July 3, 2011) that "the pay of senior hospital consultants is still a mystery". Well, presumably that is why he works as a financial adviser instead of as an investigative reporter. The information is freely available on publicjobs.ie or careersinhealthcare.ie. A consultant appointed in the past year who has not previously been in a consultant post earns €192,000. New appointees earn €172,000. Mystery solved.

After tax and levies and everything else, for the higher-paid consultant, on a Type A contract (public practice only, accounting for approximately 85 per cent of consultants), the monthly take-home pay is €7,500. This suggests pay and levies of €90,000 paid to the Exchequer. Lower the consultant pay and you lower the consultant taxation. I would happily see that happen.

The contract which I signed with the Minister for Health and Children in 2008 guaranteed me a salary of €242,000. This was never paid. I have ceased all private work, as per my contract, but I have never been paid the "fat-cat" salary which is so often and so mistakenly reported in return for ceasing private work which would be carried out in my spare time and at weekends.

Fairly soon, with increased taxation and with our cost of living, it will be more worthwhile for me to leave the HSE, leave the country or take on a half-time job. My take-home pay will change very little.

People have a right to know what all public servants are paid, and so I have no problem providing this information. But I should point out that Irish consultants are among the most highly sought-after professionals in the world. I have myself been offered posts in two other countries in the past year.

I work about 50-60 hours per week despite being contracted to work only 37. I also work around 10-15 hours per week for free in the voluntary sector. This is typical of Irish consultants in the main. Our sense of vocation is deeply ingrained in our psyche.

The tiny number of consultants on non-Type A (ie, public-only) contracts is an embarrassment to our profession. But, they are individuals who have chosen to work unbelievable hours (in excess of 80-100) so as to make financial gain, with the Exchequer the main beneficiary. If they want to do this, who are we to stop them? They provide a service that people want. Anything else would be communist. Ask the VHI!

Sean O Domhnaill,

Consultant Psychiatrist & Psychotherapist,

St Loman's Hospital, Mullingar, Co Westmeath

Sunday Independent

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