OUR HEALTH SERVICE IS ON LIFE SUPPORT. WE MUST ACT NOW TO SAVE IT; Pay Inequality Has Led to a Crisis with 500 Specialist Posts Vacant, Says the IMO

Daily Mail (London), August 27, 2019 | Go to article overview

OUR HEALTH SERVICE IS ON LIFE SUPPORT. WE MUST ACT NOW TO SAVE IT; Pay Inequality Has Led to a Crisis with 500 Specialist Posts Vacant, Says the IMO


Byline: Dr Clive Kilgallen

THREE weeks ago, on the back of numerous official representations by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and our #FightForFairness campaign, Minister for Health Simon Harris finally signalled his intention to resolve the unacceptable pay inequality between consultants.

In a public statement, he said that the pay disparity 'needs to be rectified - it is unfair and it is having an impact on recruitment and retention of highly skilled doctors'. He added that 'obviously, this will require a process to engage with the IMO'.

On the face of it, these are encouraging words from the minister, coming at a time when over 500 consultant posts lie empty around the country, more than 100 consultant posts are filled by doctors who aren't on the specialist register, and doctors are emigrating in their droves to countries which invest properly in fit-forpurpose health systems that value both doctors and patients.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Ireland currently has the lowest number of medical specialists in the EU, and we are seeing a consultant shortfall of up to 72% in key specialties. We are also falling considerably short of the consultant numbers recommended by the National Task Force on Medical Staffing.

But the reality is that, three weeks after these comments, the IMO has heard nothing from the minister or his office, and that is a very long time considering our health service is understaffed and struggling to provide patients with the care that they need.

DELAY CANNOT BE TOLERATED This further delay cannot be tolerated. One wonders how serious Minister Harris really is about actually doing something about these austerity-era cuts, which resulted in consultants appointed after 2012 receiving on average [euro]50,000 less than their colleagues who were appointed before them, despite doing exactly the same job, with the same level of responsibility.

The IMO has been fighting since 2012 to have these inequalities reversed, and despite numerous official representations - and commitments from Minister Harris at the IMO AGM last April, and current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as far back as 2014 - we have seen no change to the status quo.

The Government's own spending review from this year, entitled 'Health Workforce Consultant Pay and Skills Mix, 2012-2017', admits that, 'on average, there is approximately a 32% differential in salary' between consultants appointed before October 2012 and those appointed after that date. The HSE and, by extension, the Department of Health and Minister Harris, are culpable because they have let this situation fester.

And the Government certainly has form when it comes to denying our health professionals what they are entitled to. Just last year, consultants finally, after ten years, succeeded in having salary rates that were negotiated in 2008 properly implemented.

This only happened after the IMO dragged the Government to court and reflects the daily battle we face, including constantly fighting hospitals to actually pay non-consultant hospital doctors for work they have done. …

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OUR HEALTH SERVICE IS ON LIFE SUPPORT. WE MUST ACT NOW TO SAVE IT; Pay Inequality Has Led to a Crisis with 500 Specialist Posts Vacant, Says the IMO
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