Changes demanded of consultants make no sense
MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly has controversially and unfairly insisted upon further work practice reforms from medical consultants in addition to immediately reducing newly appointed consultants’ pay by 30 per cent.
In doing so he stated that the people of Ireland demanded and expected the implementation of the proposals regarding consultants set out last month by the Labour Relations Commission.
Rather than unfair unilateral proposals, however, the people of Ireland demand and expect that the Government and Ministers work fairly and effectively to provide value for money. This is not apparent in the Minister’s performance to date.
Changing the work practices of consultants without addressing other more relevant issues within the health service makes no sense. Consultants are an extremely hard-working, dedicated and flexible group.
In my hospital, the absentee rate for medics is 0.4 per cent compared to up to 5 per cent in general in the health service; in other words doctors go to work day and night and at weekends, even when ill. Every day, consultants look after patients in overcrowded clinics until late evening, battle to treat patients in overcrowded emergency departments, struggle to admit patients for elective surgery and fight for their patients to get necessary investigations and treatments.
Every night, consultants are called for advice on critically ill babies or elderly patients, perform emergency life-saving surgery or organ transplant surgery, insert cardiac stents for acute heart attacks or administer clot-busting drugs for stroke.
Every weekend, unpaid and unrostered consultants are in hospitals looking after their patients. This is because doctors take their professional responsibility to their patients seriously and care about their patients. They frequently work way beyond their contracted 37 hours per week.
Furthermore, administrative support is frequently fragmented or non-existent, with many consultants typing letters or reports. We are often asked to write repeated business cases to maintain pressurised services, never mind develop new services to match the many wonderful medical and scientific advances.
If the Minister’s sole purpose is to save money, why is it that all public servants earning over €100,000 per year, including the newly appointed Minister of State for Health, do not also have their salaries cut? I suspect many public servants earning over €100,000, including the much-criticised medical consultants, would accept a salary cut in the interests of the country. However, it seems this Government is unable or unwilling to tackle the “elephant in the room”– the Croke Park agreement.