Consultants fail to extend work practice talks
HOSPITAL CONSULTANTS have failed in an attempt to have the timeframe extended for crucial talks with health service management on work practice changes and greater flexibility.
Moves by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association to have the time period for talks extended by six weeks in addition to the forthcoming holiday period were rejected by the body overseeing the implementation of the Croke Park agreement.
Talks between health service management and organisations representing hospital consultants on work practice reforms resumed yesterday.
HSE chief executive Cathal Magee described a four-hour meeting with hospital consultants last week as “disappointing”. Management had signalled in advance that the talks yesterday represented the final opportunity for the parties to agree a deal directly between them.
In a letter to the Croke Park Implementation Body on Monday, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association sought to extend the period of the talks for six weeks, excluding the upcoming holiday period. Association secretary general Martin Varley said health service management had outlined a clear view last week that it was not willing to allow time for meaningful discussions on complex and difficult issues.
“It persisted [in holding] this position and threatened to end discussions when we meet on Tuesday . . . if we did not advance issues to finality. It further suggested on several occasions that it would refer the matter to the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) following discussions on July 24th.
“Having just commenced discussions on the detailed documents at our July 17th meeting we consider it a breach of sections 1.23 and 1.24 of the [Croke Park] deal to threaten to refer the matter under discussion to the LRC at this very early stage of engagement,” Mr Varley said.
However in a letter yesterday to the association, the implementation body said the approach adopted by management was in accordance with the Croke Park agreement. It did not propose to intervene. Minister for Health James Reilly has proposed introducing work practice changes and greater flexibility for hospital consultants as an alternative to further pay cuts as set out in the programme for government.
Talks between consultants and management adjourned last night and will resume on Thursday. Sources said while some progress had been made, this was still slow. It is understood management formally advised medical organisations that any unresolved issues would be referred to the LRC at that stage. Sources said un resolved issues included historic rest days and Government plans for a new medical specialist grade.