Friday, April 20, 2007

Consultants Dispute

Letter published in today's Irish Times

Madam, - In describing as "Mickey Mouse" the new consultants' contract on offer from the HSE, an IHCA representative has finally shown us what this dispute is really about (The Irish Times, April 18th). On Tuesday, RTÉ's Morning Ireland pointed out that the basic salary now on offer was 50 per cent higher than that paid to consultants working in the UK National Health Service, a fact acknowledged by the IHCA representative on the programme.

The justification offered by spokesmen for the medical organisations for such very high salary levels, relative to UK peers, is that we want to attract and retain the best possible medical practitioners.

Are we expected to believe that all Irish consultants are sufficiently superior in quality to their British counterparts to justify such a huge salary differential? The vast majority are no better or worse than the average in the UK or any other European health service. The health service would probably be much better off if it could release the existing expensive consultants into full-time private practice and replace them with a new, more flexible and affordable workforce.

Every €10 million of salary cost will probably get us 25 to 30 existing consultants but would be sufficient to pay 40 to 45 consultants on the new contract, with extended hours and increased flexibility.

Replacing the existing crew would result in the loss of some experience and expertise, leading to some sub-optimal outcomes for patients. However, because we could afford to employ many more consultants, the resultant reduction in waiting lists and early intervention must greatly increase the prospects for those currently waiting months or years to see a consultant. - Yours, etc,

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