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The Vice President of the IHCA Dr Laura Durcan has resigned from her post following “abuse” and “harassment” directed at her by private consultants.
In a letter to IHCA officials on 27 April, seen by the Medical Independent (MI), Dr Durcan said she was not willing to accept the “bullying and harassment” as part of her voluntary role with association.
Dr Durcan believes that most of the issues for private consultants “lie with their individual hospitals” and that they should move on to treating patients.
“As this is at odds with both the views of the organisation and some of the private practice clinicians, I feel it is the best thing for me to tender my resignation,” wrote Dr Durcan.
The Consultant Rheumatologist at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, began her resignation letter by saying: “It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter”.
Dr Durcan, who is also an Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer with the RCSI, continued that the recent changes in healthcare, including the takeover of private hospitals, had caused “much stress and anxiety”.
“I understand that this uncertainty is most glaring in the private sector where the direction of traffic is unclear and the hospitals have essentially been on standby whilst this pandemic unfolds,” she wrote.
“This has made it very difficult for private consultants to envisage the future of their service and understandably there is lots of emotion directed at sorting this.
“I recognise that there is anger amongst this group and that they believe I could have been more forceful in my support, but in my balanced view, at this point, they should make a decision, and move on to treating patients.
“It is also my view that the majority of their issues lie with their individual hospitals, which is a particularly difficult position for them. As this is at odds with both the views of the organisation and some of the private practice clinicians, I feel it is the best thing for me to tender my resignation.”
She added: “The abuse I have had directed at me in this regard is nothing short of bullying and harassment, and is not something I am willing to accept in what is a voluntary role.”
Dr Durcan said a significant proportion of consultants doing the “heavy lifting” during the crisis are new-entrant hospital consultants, and “many of them feel that their issues have been side-lined”.
Despite the challenges, Dr Durcan noted that she was “hugely proud” of the way in which hospital consultants had stepped up to the task “of managing patients in a time of crisis”.
She paid tribute to colleagues in several areas, including ICU, microbiology and cardiology, and commended surgical colleagues who had moved to provide front line emergency care and training during the public health emergency.
The IHCA has not recommended the contract in its current form, but had advised the decision to sign is up to each individual consultant.
The IHCA confirmed to MI that Dr Durcan has decided to step down from her position as Vice President of the Association
However, Dr Durcan will continue to make a valuable contribution to the work of our organisation in her capacity as Chair of our New Entrant Committee.
“During her tenure as Vice President, Dr Durcan made a huge contribution to the organisation,” according to the IHCA spokesperson.
“She remains a passionate and committed advocate of patient rights and of improving the working conditions of her consultant colleagues.
“Dr Durcan was also to the fore in championing wider issues in our health service including increasing bed capacity in our hospitals, restoring pay parity for all consultants and addressing the ongoing consultant recruitment and retention crisis amongst others.
“The reasons cited by Dr Durcan for her resignation are issues which the organisation takes very seriously and which we are now acting upon.”
The IHCA is currently developing social media guidelines for members to promote best practice when communicating across social media.
It is intended to quickly put these guidelines in place to support all members, officers and staff.
Following the State’s takeover of 19 private hospitals, many private consultants are unable to treat their private patients, some of whom have been transferred to the care of the public hospital system.