Hospital consultants could be set to receive millions of euro in compensation over the HSE’s failure to pay higher salaries agreed more than seven years ago to encourage them to treat more public patients.
This follows successful cases brought by two consultants to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
In one case the tribunal awarded Thomas Hogan, a former consultant anaesthetist at a number of Dublin hospitals, just under €100,000. A second doctor, John McDermott, who worked as a consultant endocrinologist at Blanchardstown hospital, was awarded €14,000.
The HSE said it would be appealing the findings immediately, amid concerns they could leave the State facing compensation bills running potentially to more than €100 million.
Nearly 2,000 consultants are covered by a 2008 contract under which they agreed to new work practices, restrictions on private practice, weekend work and extended rosters.
In return, then minister for health Mary Harney offered them salaries of between €170,000 and €240,000, with increases to bring the rate up to these levels to be paid on a phased basis.
The first payment was made, but not the second, following the collapse in the public finances.
Subsequently, the State cut consultants’ pay by 15 per cent as part of wide-ranging public service salary reductions.
The tribunal found the non-payment of portions of the doctors’ salaries amounted to an unlawful deduction under the Payment of Wages Act.
Meanwhile, 150 consultants have decided to go to court to force payment of the increased salaries rather than applying to the tribunal.
In 2011, the Department of Health told the minister at the time, James Reilly, that consultants treating public patients full-time could be due €40,000 per year, backdated to June 2009. The HSE argued it could not pay the increases in the absence of sanction from the Minister for Health or Minister for Finance under the terms of the Health Act.
However, the tribunal said it considered the legislation obliged the HSE to have terms approved by Ministers prior to it entering into a contract, and not retrospectively.