Court asked to fix date for cases by medical consultants

Almost 500 consultants have sued HSE and Ministers in actions involving pay claims estimated at €250m

Mr Justice Gilligan said it was important arrangements were put in place that would see the best use of court resources and keep legal costs down

Mr Justice Gilligan said it was important arrangements were put in place that would see the best use of court resources and keep legal costs down

 

The High Court has been asked to fix a hearing date for test cases by medical consultants against the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the State over pay. Almost 500 consultants have sued in actions involving claims estimated at €250 million.

In proceedings against the HSE and Ministers for Health, Finance and Public Expenditure, 497 consultants working in the State’s hospitals and public health services claim the HSE reneged on payments due under contracts, known as the common consultant’s contract, agreed in 2008. It is claimed the defendants’ actions amount to breach of contract.

Under the 2008 agreement doctors working at that time were due to receive pay rises which would have increased their then salaries to sums between €175,000 and €240,000 for taking on extra hours and weekend work in the public sector.

The claims are denied. The defendants deny any breach of contract, and have opposed the actions.

Michael Cush SC told Mr Justice Paul Gilligan he was acting for 37 consultants. His clients had not received three particular payments due in 2007, 2008 and 2009 which were due under the terms of the 2008 contract. He said the HSE counsel had argued section 22( 4)of the 2004 Health Act allowed it not to make the payments sought.

Two lead cases

The tribunal ruled the contract should have been honoured and awarded the consultants, Dr Thomas Hogan, a now retired anaesthetist, €100,000, and Dr John McDermott, an endocrinologist based at James Connolly Hospital, Dublin, €14,000.*

The HSE had argued it could not pay the full salaries at the time because the former minister for health Mary Harney would not sanction them.

Court time

He also said the HSE wanted 20 firms of solicitors acting for the consultants to agree on consolidation and other procedures to save court time and costs. Such an arrangement was outside his clients’ control, and they wanted two lead cases out of the 37 represented by his instructing solicitors listed for hearing.

Marguerite Bolger SC, for the State defendants, said they wanted to await the outcome of the appeal against the EAT’s findings.

Mr Justice Gilligan said it was important arrangements were put in place that would see the best use of court resources and keep legal costs down. He also noted the appeal of the EAT’s finding was fixed for January, and it could take some months before a judgment was delivered.

He suggested the solicitors involved in the various actions should be written to with a view to making arrangements that would see the matter progressed.

He adjourned the matter to May, when he hoped some agreement could be reached among the parties.

*This article was amended on November 11th 2016 to correct an error