Medical specialists in Ireland are now the lowest-paid within the English-speaking world, the president of the Irish Medical Organisation has said.
In his presidential address to the organisation's annual conference on Saturday, Dr Matt Sadlier warned the recent 30 per cent cut in salaries for newly appointed hospital consultants could cause "generational damage" to the Irish health service.
He said whether politicians liked it or not the medical workforce was an international and mobile one. Those who were qualified to specialist level were in huge demand, he said.
Dr Sadlier said Ireland competed for this workforce mainly with other English-speaking countries.
"Due to historical links, Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and – to a lesser degree Canada – not only share language but also how their medical systems are organised and this means that Irish specialists can easily walk into posts.
"Talking about the remuneration of medical specialists in other EU countries is largely irrelevant, as very few doctors choose (due to linguistics) to work in Finland and Hungary or Ireland. However, many doctors, including myself are faced with working in Ireland or the UK or Canada, Australia, New Zealand."
Dr Sadlier said the fact Ireland had the lowest-paid medical specialists within the English-speaking world would cause significant impairment to our health service.
“Ireland has always relied on recruiting Irish graduates back who had trained abroad to return and lead innovation within our service.”
He said the policy of graduating increasing numbers of doctors from Irish medical schools would not solve this problem as almost 50 per cent of graduates were leaving after their first year of practice.
Dr Sadlier also urged the media to be cautious in its reporting of medical research and in relation to suicide.
“In my opinion the media needs to take great care when reporting on new medical research and always give a balanced approach. From my own experience, sensational news stories can lead to changed behaviour among patients such as stopping medication, which may lead to adverse outcomes.
“This is particularly true when we address the thorny issue of the reporting of suicide.”
He said no other issue showed the importance of balancing “public interest” with that of “public risk”.
"Evidence has repeatedly shown that irresponsible reporting of individual suicides can lead to the spread of tragedy. I implore all media outlets to consider published guidelines on reporting on suicide as well as considering the consequences and the possible public risk when publishing all medical stories."
Dr Sadlier also called for a robust countrywide electronic medical record system that would include a unique patient identifier for every man, woman and child. He said such a system could significantly improve the quality and safety of patient care and would not be hugely costly.