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Medics’ fury over ‘golf course’ slur by First Minister Peter Robinson

By Lisa Smyth

The First Minister has come under fire after accusing senior doctors of dictating where they will work according to the location of their golf course.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has reacted angrily to comments made by DUP leader Peter Robinson as his party announced its health priorities in the run up to the Assembly elections.

Hospital services in Northern Ireland are increasingly facing disruption because of a lack of doctors to staff rotas.

In February, the Health Minister approved controversial proposals by the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust to downgrade the A&E overnight cover at the Downe Hospital.

Trust bosses blamed the move on difficulties recruiting adequately trained staff to work in the department.

Last year, there was outrage when the A&Es at Mid Ulster and Whiteabbey hospitals were closed.

At the time, the Northern Health & Social Care Trust said it was forced to close the units because of rota gaps.

Mr Robinson said the DUP wanted to address the issue and said: “We can’t allow the health service to be run on the basis of where consultants find it most convenient to work.

“They should work in a hospital because they are extremely well paid to be there and not because it is handy for their golf course or where they live.”

Chair of the BMA’s Northern Ireland Council Dr Paul Darragh said he was disappointed Mr Robinson had reverted to an incorrect stereotype of consultants.

He said doctors play a key role in the delivery of the health service and said such comments would damage morale even further at a time when staff are already stressed and overworked.

In order to tackle issues recruiting doctors to work in hospitals, the DUP said it wants to introduce a system which would allow trusts to force consultants to rotate around hospitals.

Dr Stephen Austin, chairman of the BMA’s Consultant Committee in Northern Ireland, said: “This is a way to ensure we have a third class health system.

“The idea that consultants choose where they work because of golf is extremely outdated and such a glib and throwaway remark from the First Minister is extremely unhelpful.

“Consultants work extremely hard and want their patients to receive the best possible care.

“Consultants want to work in hospitals where they can provide the best possible service and that means having a good team around you and access to the best technology.

“Trying to force doctors to work in certain hospitals, where they can’t do the best for their patients, will just force them to leave and work in other countries where the working conditions are better.”

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