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The attendance of the Minister will be seen as significant, as it will be the first time a sitting Minister for Health has addressed an IHCA conference since 2012. Former Minister for Health Dr James Reilly addressed the consultant gathering in Galway in 2012.
IHCA Secretary General Mr Martin Varley informed MI that Minister Varadkar is due to speak at the conference next month.
A spokesperson for the Minister said the content of his address had not yet been decided upon. However, it would be expected that IHCA concerns over pay, recruitment, and indemnity costs would form some part of his speech.
Minister Varadkar spoke at the IMO AGM earlier this year and has attended a large number of healthcare professional gatherings in recent months, accepting invitations from dermatologists, laboratory scientists, nurses, and hospital and community pharmacists, among others.
“Currently, the Minister hopes to be in a position to attend and address the [IHCA] conference. This is obviously subject to any unavoidable events arising on that day, which may require the Minister’s attention,” a spokesperson for the Minister told MI.
The IHCA has been highly critical of Government policy in recent years regarding pay cuts and revised pay grades for consultants. The IHCA has also remained outside the Haddington Road Agreement.
The recent IHCA pre-Budget submission reiterated the Association’s opposition to the cuts in consultant pay and emphasised its view that the cuts have contributed to the difficulties in recruitment and retention of consultants in Ireland.
Last year’s IHCA annual conference in Cork was addressed by Mr Jim Breslin, Secretary General of the Department of Health. Mr Breslin delivered an address that in part urged the IHCA to enter the Haddington Road talks.
The 2015 IHCA conference takes place in the Tullamore Court Hotel on Saturday, 3 October. MI will carry extensive pre- and post-conference coverage.