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Defence Forces spent over €5m on agency doctors since 2019

By Catherine Reilly - 06th Feb 2023

defence forces

The Defence Forces spent over €5 million on agency doctors from 2019 to late 2022, excluding VAT, according to figures obtained by the Medical Independent (MI) under Freedom of Information law.

The expenditure grew from €1.3 million in 2019 to €1.4 million in 2020 and €1.5 million in 2021. The figure to November of 2022 was €995,841.

The highest amounts were paid to Advanced Medical Services (€1 million in 2019; €1.2 million in 2020; €1.2 million in 2021; and €871,138 to November 2022).

The expenditure comes in the context of recruitment difficulties in regard to medical officers due in part to an unattractive salary scale.

“Costs for agency staff are demand-led and are paid from a subhead covering all professional consultants and specialist fees,” said a Defence Forces spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson confirmed that a review into the military medicine training scheme has recommended its continuation, “pending the agreement of a number of administrative matters between the parties to the scheme, including the payment of relevant allowances.”

The training scheme provides dual qualification in military medicine and general practice. An ICGP spokesperson told MI: “Further recruitment onto the military medicine training scheme is awaiting the signing of a framework agreement between the HSE, the
ICGP, and Department of Defence. The first military medicine trainee is due to complete the full cycle of training in late April 2023.”

Currently, there are 22 medical officers in the Defence Forces, of whom three are undertaking the military medicine training scheme. There are six medical officer vacancies. On the day of the response from the Defence Forces, 10 medical officers were deployable overseas. Reasons for not being able to deploy overseas included training requirements (military medicine scheme), illness or a medical classification code that deemed personnel unfit for overseas service.

Three medical officers are deployed overseas at any given time – two in Lebanon and one in Syria. 

MI previously reported that a 130-strong Defence Forces contingent were deployed to the volatile Golan Heights in early October without a medical officer, which was the first time this had occurred.

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