Locum doctors accuse HSE of misleading public about their earnings

HSE example of locums paid €100,000 more than staff ‘grossly inflated’ their income

Locum doctors: “The wages of locums are expressed in gross amounts, from which corporate tax, income tax and VAT have to be deducted.” Photograph: iStock/Getty

Locum doctors: “The wages of locums are expressed in gross amounts, from which corporate tax, income tax and VAT have to be deducted.” Photograph: iStock/Getty

 

Locum doctors who have withdrawn their labour after their pay was cut have accused the HSE of misleading the public about their earnings.

A week after their action began the Health Service Executive says that full staffing remains challenging to maintain but that hospital groups are reporting full cover across all sites.

After the disruption caused at some emergency departments where locum staff failed to report for duty, the HSE last week published figures pointing to large differences in the earnings of agency staff before their pay was cut and salaried HSE staff.

According to the HSE, locums could earn between €65,000 and €100,000 more than salaried staff, depending on seniority, before rates were cut by 15 per cent at the start of September.

But the locum doctors say this calculation grossly inflates their earnings, as it is based on an excessively long working week and does not take account of deductions and periods of inactivity.

Gross earnings

“The wages of locums are expressed in gross amounts, from which corporate tax, income tax and VAT have to be deducted,” the group says. “Transportation, room and board, provisions for unpaid holidays and sick leave and mandatory continued medical education also come out of these gross amounts. Periods of unemployment due to lack of demand in low seasons, which can range from weeks to months with no income whatsoever, also have to be contemplated.”

The HSE earnings estimate was also based on a 48-hour working week, which is the maximum permitted under the European working-time directive. The locums say this volume of work, over 50 weeks a year, would be impossible to sustain.

They say any health system working around the clock will require a locum pool to cover gaps due to sickness, holidays and study leave. “Our service provision is mostly short-term. Full-time locums are very rare and occur mostly in a few understaffed hospitals.

“As an integral part of the HSE we are proud of our role and only expect fair treatment and recognition. A unilateral pay cut, applied within weeks of its announcement, with no prior negotiation, while we are being asked to fulfil the same duties and responsibilities, is unfair and counterproductive for an already chronically understaffed health system.”