Belfast Telegraph

Hospital consultants to be offered 250,000-euro salary for public-only contract

Health Minister Simon Harris said he expects a ‘critical mass’ of doctors to switch to the new contract.

Minister for Health Simon Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)
Minister for Health Simon Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Aine McMahon PA

Hospital consultants are to be offered a salary of 250,000 euro a year to commit to a new public-only contract, in what has been described as the one of the biggest shake-ups of the health service.

Health Minister Simon Harris said the salary range will be 180,000 to 222,000 euro, rising to 250,000 per year from 2020.

The contract will be offered to new consultants and existing ones who agree to only work in public hospitals.

The recommendation for a public-only contract was made in the all-party SlainteCare Report published in May 2017 and the deButleir Report released in October.

According to the de Butleir Report, consultants appointed before October 2012 who agreed to a public work-only contract earn between 177,800 and 213,200 euro per year for that work.

Consultants appointed since October 2012 are paid a lower rate, ranging from 135,600 to 187,700 euro per year, if they agree to work in public hospitals only.

Mr Harris told reporters in Dublin that the new contract is one of “the biggest shake-ups in the health care system in a generation”.

Mr Harris said he is confident consultants will take up the offer instead of remaining in the private field.

He said the two-tier healthcare system is unfair and the new contract under SlainteCare will provide a fairer system for patients.

“We’re setting about ending an unfair disadvantage that is not the norm in other countries. If you have two patients in a hospital with the same medical condition, one can be seen much quicker than the other, based on whether they have the ability to pay,” he said.

“Yesterday the Government agreed that from the middle of next year, new consultants will be hired on a public SlainteCare contract. We will not be offering any contracts that allow private practice in public hospitals from 2020.

“This will be one of the highest rates of payoff to any consultant in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) region and perhaps the highest in the European Union.

“Existing consultants will also be offered the opportunity to switch to the new proposed contract, and the new contractual arrangements should be of particular interest to consultants appointed since 2012, who have now been paid a lower rate, and those appointed before.

“I think it’s important to say as a country we have some of the best-trained consultants in the world, we have very many dedicated doctors. My message today to doctors who are approaching graduation, or indeed to Irish doctors working overseas, is that this new SlainteCare contract will be the basis for a fulfilling career in our public health service.”

Mr Harris said the changes will mean a fairer and more progressive health service and would move the Republic of Ireland towards international norms.

Asked if the salary being offered would be enough to make private consultants change, he said the level of remuneration is the highest in the OECD.

“We believe that (salary) is incentive enough to switch. When you look and know our doctors and their desire to work in the public health service, it can be more rewarding because of the complexity of cases and links to academic institutions and research,” he said.

“I think we will start to see critical mass quite quickly and certainly by 2030 we will see significant numbers of consultants signing up.”

The Irish Medical Organisation has said there will have to be negotiations on the contracts.

The union said that in the absence of negotiations, it plans on taking industrial action in the new year.

“I am happy to engage with consultants in relation to the process and how the contract will work. There are many things I want to discuss with doctors and I welcome having those discussions in January,” said Mr Harris.

PA

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