The IMO has confirmed it will meet Minister for Health Simon Harris this Friday (10 January) to discuss the Government’s proposals on a new consultant contract.
Speaking today, Dr Matthew Sadlier, former President of the IMO and a member of its consultant committee, said: “It is unfortunate that it takes a ballot for industrial action by doctors to get the Government to react but we now need to see they are serious about entering talks to resolve the consultant recruitment crisis.”
In the meantime, the consultant and NCHD committees of the IMO will continue their preparations for industrial action, scheduled to begin “in the coming weeks”.
Dr Sadlier continued: “We need real action not just electioneering talk, and the IMO will continue with our strike plans unless the Minister comes up with a serious attempt to urgently address the consultant crisis while also ensuring patients are properly cared for and all doctors are fairly treated with adequate supports and proper resources. We cannot afford to wait while patients are put at risk.
“In reality, this meeting can’t come soon enough given the record-breaking numbers of patients waiting for hospital beds and the fact that 540 consultant posts lie empty around the country.
“The roots of the consultant crisis stem from a unilateral decision by a Fine Gael-led Government in 2012 to slash pay for new consultants based solely on when they were appointed. That decision led directly to the current waiting list crisis because it has caused a major shortage of desperately needed consultants, our senior doctors, to see and treat patients.
“It is imperative that we resolve this consultant crisis and quickly agree a meaningful deal so that patients can get the care they deserve and the pressure on our hospitals is eased. We hope that the Minister is ready to negotiate in a serious way in order to resolve this crisis because otherwise we are ready to proceed with industrial action.”
Last month, Minister Harris and Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe announced a new “Sláintecare contract” for consultants.
From Q2, 2020, all consultant appointments “will be to the new Sláintecare consultant contract” which requires consultants employed by the State to focus 100 per cent of their time on public-only work, according to the Department of Health.
Private practice will not be permitted under the new contract.
Reflecting this change, the Sláintecare contract will be offered “at increased pay levels of up to €222,460, rising further to €252,150 by July 2022”.
These new contractual arrangements will apply to new entrants only. Existing consultants will be offered “the opportunity to switch to the new proposed contract but will retain the option to remain on their existing contract”