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Concern as more consultants leave public practice

The consultants, who are all currently practising privately, resigned from the HSE in the last six months. They include an orthopaedic surgeon, ENT surgeon, anaesthetist and ophthalmic surgeon, the Medical Independent (MI) understands.

Limerick GP Dr Valerie Keating told this newspaper the resignations were a “huge loss” to the system. She described the clinicians as “excellent Irish-trained consultants”. Dr Keating said the resignations were unprecedented but not isolated, as at least four other resignations had occurred in Dublin in recent months. The figures do not include the recent resignations from the public health service of three consultant psychiatrists in the south east.

“There is as much frustration with the HSE in hospital medicine, it seems, as there is in GP-land,” Dr Keating said.

Consultant Gastroenterologist in Tallaght University Hospital, Dublin, Dr Anthony O’Connor said he fully understood why some consultants would choose to move to the private sector, given the disillusionment felt by clinicians at the current state of the public health service.

Dr O’Connor told MI private hospitals were offering attractive and competitive packages to consultants, which was another factor in them leaving the public system. He also questioned who would want to work for a service that “spied” on its workers, in reference to the recent revelation that private investigators were hired by the Government to monitor consultants’ working arrangements.

Dublin GP Dr Ray Walley criticised the Government for inaction in response to the resignations and said hospital waiting list numbers would continue to rise as resignations continued.

Dr Walley said resignations were “exponentially increasing” and queried whether the Government and Department of Health had any plans to counteract this.

An IMO spokesperson outlined that consultant resignations were occurring at a rate of one-to-two per month.

Around 450 consultant posts are vacant nationally, with advertisements for some posts receiving no applications.

Of the 3,000 consultants nationally, more than 1,700 hold the Type B contract, which allows for limited on-site inpatient private practice.

Earlier this month, consultants settled their action against the State for breach of contract. The deal will cost the State approximately €200 million in retrospective payments and add €60 million to annual consultant pay costs.

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