Donohoe raised concerns with Harris over invite to talks on hospital consultants’ pay

Minister of Health’s letter for upcoming process suggests it will focus on healthcare reforms

Medical representative bodies maintain the current two-tier system can see consultants appointed after October 2012 receive up to €50,000 per year less than more longer-serving colleagues

Medical representative bodies maintain the current two-tier system can see consultants appointed after October 2012 receive up to €50,000 per year less than more longer-serving colleagues

 

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe has expressed strong concern to Minister for Health Simon Harris about his proposals to convene talks to tackle the two-tier pay system for hospital consultants.

The first phase of Mr Harris’s initiative — since broadened into discussions on wider health reform and not specifically about new entrant remuneration — will take place on Thursday when Government officials meet the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).

In early August The Irish Times reported Mr Harris wanted to put in place a process to deal with pay issues for consultants which he described as “unfair”.

Medical representative bodies maintain the current two-tier system can see consultants appointed after October 2012 receive up to €50,000 per year less than more longer-serving colleagues.

Official correspondence shows that 10 days later Mr Donohoe raised these comments directly in a letter to Mr Harris.

Mr Donohoe said he was “very concerned” at media reports that the Government would address the issue of pay for new entrant consultants and that Mr Harris intended to invite all interested parties to a process in the autumn.

The Minister for Health’s letter of invitation to the new process, however, suggests it will centre on healthcare reforms but not specifically on ending the lower -pay rates in place for specialists recruited over recent years.

In a letter sent to the Irish Medical Organisation, he said he wanted it to attend discussions with health service management and the Department of Public Expenditure and “to explore how the challenges faced by our public health service might be considered in the context of the current health reform programme”.

The Minister suggested in his letter the talks could consider the broader Slaintecare reforms and the proposals on eliminating private medicine from public hospitals as proposed in the recent De Buitleir report.

Mr Harris’s letter does not specifically suggest the talks would aim at ending the two-tier pay system which medical organisations contend is leading to the recruitment and retention difficulties being experienced in hospitals around the country.

Medical organisations contend that there are about 500 consultant posts not filled on a permanent basis.

The IMO has been invited by Mr Harris to attend the talks first as it is affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which negotiated the current public service pay agreement with the Government.

Other organisations such as the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, which is not formally linked to the trade union movement, are expected to be invited to subsequent talks with the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure in the weeks ahead.