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Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe have announced a new Sláintecare contract for consultants.
From Q2, 2020, all future 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.
Private practice will not be permitted under this new contract and this is central to this reform, according to a Department of Health press release.
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”.
Minister Harris said: “Today is a landmark day for patients in Ireland. Moving towards single-tier public hospital care will mean a fairer health service, a more sustainable and efficient hospital service, and shorter waiting times.
“This will take time, but we are committing to hiring 1,885 consultants between now and 2030 on public-only contracts. This will deliver better value for money and will unlock the vision set out in Sláintecare. This will give a net increase of 1,000 consultants by 2030.”
Minister Donohoe added: “This a generational opportunity to reform the way hospital care is delivered in Ireland.
“Requiring consultants to focus on public-only work is a significant reform and the increased rates of pay being announced reflect that. The de Buitléir Report on removing private practice from public hospitals, on which these measures are based, shows that the rates of pay that we are applying to the new Sláintecare contract compare very favourably in international terms. I hope that the hospital consultant representative organisations will get behind this reform in the public interest which is key to delivering on the vision of Sláintecare.
“Changes to how we manage and deliver public healthcare cannot achieve their full potential so long as senior healthcare decision-makers devote part of their time and focus to private business activities. That is why this reform is key. This reform together with the additional recruitment Government will fund over the coming years will help to deliver real improvements for patients who depend on our public health system.”
Minister Harris concluded: “I look forward to consulting with all relevant stakeholders on the roll out of the Sláintecare contract early in the New Year as we take the important next steps on the journey to single-tier public hospital care.”
In a statement earlier this afternoon, the IMO said it noted the proposal by the Taoiseach in the Dáil this morning to offer public-only consultant contracts to all consultants as a means of resolving the current dispute over pay and recruitment and retention issues.
“Clearly yesterday’s overwhelming vote by IMO consultant and NCHD members to vote in favour of strike action in the New Year is already having an impact in terms of engaging the Taoiseach in this crisis.
“However, the Taoiseach must understand that to resolve this issue will require negotiations with the IMO and not unilateral pronouncements in the Dail. In the absence of such negotiations, our plans for industrial action in the New Year continue.
“The roots of the current crisis go back to a unilateral decision by a Fine Gael-led Government in 2012 to slash pay for new consultants. That decision led directly to the current trolley crisis and the waiting list crisis because it has caused a shortage of desperately needed consultants to see and treat patients. Lest we forget there are currently circa 540 unfilled consultant posts across the sector in Ireland.
“Having caused this crisis by a failure to sit down with the IMO, it is ironic that the Taoiseach thinks he can solve it now by acting unilaterally again. He cannot. He needs to sit down with the IMO and have the good sense to acknowledge the scale of the crisis facing us and demonstrate a real willingness to work with us on finding workable proposals to resolve it.
“It is good to see the Taoiseach engaging on this issue. Now let’s see him engage seriously with consultants and NCHDs to resolve this dispute.”