Private consultants say they are ‘100% committed to fight against Covid-19’

Talks under way to break impasse over moving 600 consultants to public system

Private consultants believe the proposals could have serious implications for the continuity of care for thousands of their existing private patients. File photograph: Patrick T Fallon/Bloomberg

Private consultants believe the proposals could have serious implications for the continuity of care for thousands of their existing private patients. File photograph: Patrick T Fallon/Bloomberg

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The HSE has said discussions are under way between private sector medical consultants and the Department of Health aimed at addressing an impasse over Government proposals to move up to 600 of these doctors to the public system.

The Government has offered full-time private consultants a temporary locum contract to work exclusively in the public health system as part of the fight against the coronavirus.

However, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association has expressed significant concerns about the proposals. It has urged its members not to sign the new proposed contract pending clarifications being received.

Private consultants believe the proposals could have serious implications for the continuity of care for thousands of their existing private patients.

In a note to members on Monday, the IHCA said it had sought legal advice on the proposed new contract.

There is a public misperception that private practice consultants are in some ways delaying signing a contract

It said the Government had proposed “a specified-purpose contract which does not have a start or end date/term of employment or a termination provision, nor does it specify the salary scale to apply”.

“The contract proposed is a (public only) Type A contract which, in its current form, would prohibit full-time private practice consultants who take up the contract from providing continuity of care to their current and former patients who need assessment and treatment in consulting rooms and otherwise.”

Salary on offer

Government sources had previously indicated that the salary on offer to the private practice consultants would be identical to that paid to specialists appointed to the public system since October 2012 which ranges from €141,000 to €195,000 over a nine-point scale.

On Monday night IHCA council member and consultant respiratory specialist Dr Oisín O’Connell said: “There is a public misperception that full-time private practice consultants are in some ways delaying signing a contract. Nothing is further from the truth. I am 100 per cent committed to signing the contract that was sent for the first time to me [on Monday] at 7.30am and 100 per cent committed to our national efforts in the fight ahead with Covid-19.”

He said the issue with the proposed contract was that it mandated that “all clinic rooms patients whom we have looked after for years or in whom we have recently started their time-critical care plan such as cancer care management” should return to public waiting lists elsewhere.

He said he was “in no way looking to profiteer” but there were ways the Government could ensure he worked in the frontline while ensuring his “pre-existing clinic patients are cared for”.