Minister rejects 'consultant bashing'

Fri, Nov 9, 2012, 00:00

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has said he looks forward to all hospital consultants embracing changes agreed at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).

He said many consultants were doing excellent work, although many felt there had been too much “consultant bashing’’.

“As with all groups in Irish society, there are always some who deserve a good bashing, but the vast bulk of people working as consultants in this country do an extraordinary job, going way beyond the hours they are contracted to provide.’’

Dr Reilly said the measures agreed at the LRC would allow for very significant reforms in how services were delivered and would ultimately lead to improved outcomes for users.

“The agreement encompasses a range of flexibilities centred on enhancing productivity and efficiency on an ongoing basis and on maximising the availability of consultants as key clinical decision-makers.”

He said health service managers were proceeding with implementation of the measures since last Monday.

Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked if Dr Reilly echoed the call of the Labour Court for consultants to forgo so-called historic entitlements, which allowed many to receive double pay when they chose to work the final year before retirement.

Second opinions

Mr Ó Caoláin said it was perverse that psychiatrists, who were already receiving very high salaries from the HSE, were being paid €500 a time for second opinions.

“There are so many examples of inappropriate payments and unacceptable practices associated with the consultants down through the years, but most certainly, in these times when savage cuts are being imposed on older people, it is absolutely unacceptable and must be addressed properly.”

Dr Reilly said change in work practices regarding new clinical programmes and teams led last year to €63 million savings.

“As I often have stated, it is not so much the money saved as the fact that more patients can be treated more quickly that really is the point in this regard.’’

He said that through the LRC he had sought to push this pro bono arrangement, with which consultants had co-operated, into a formalised contractual arrangement.