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IHCA warns of ‘lost generation’

09 Feb 2017

Continued breaches of the 2008 consultant contract, discriminatory salaries for new entrants and the under-resourcing of front-line services pose the serious risk of a “lost generation” of Irish specialists who are emigrating to pursue their medical careers elsewhere.

The stark warning is contained in the IHCA’s submission to the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC), which has been seen by Irish Medical Times.

An IHCA delegation, led by the Association’s President Dr Tom Ryan, engaged in detailed discussions at a meeting with the PSPC on January 9, during which the scale of the consultant recruitment and retention crisis was explored.

Consultant salaries were cut by 22 per cent in the six years up to 2015, with the reduction exceeding 40 per cent for new entrants appointed from 2012.

The Association explained how 370 posts, or 15 per cent of the permanent consultant workforce, remained vacant, along with an additional 65 consultant psychiatry posts. While some of these had been filled on a temporary or agency basis — at a significantly higher cost — the IHCA noted that a large proportion remained vacant, which was “undermining patient care”.

The IHCA submission provided what the Association described as “irrefutable evidence” that other English-speaking countries, to which Irish specialists were emigrating, were paying salaries on average between a third (33%) and three-quarters (76%) above the salaries of consultants in Ireland.

Compared to a gross salary of €162,319 here, consultants could earn €216,064, €281,763 and €286,570 in Australia, Canada or the US, respectively.

“Likewise, when the local awards [of up to €41,500] and national awards [€88,800] and other factors are taken into account, a similar situation pertains in the UK,” it noted.

Up until 2008, the Irish health service was seen as an attractive location for consultants, but the non-payment of a salary increase in 2009 constituted a “universal breach of contract”, the IHCA noted, adding that the figures showed a dramatic decline in the number of applicants for each post after the move — from 4.69 applicants per post in 2008 to just 1.87 in 2011. In 2012, of the 119 posts to be filled, no attendees turned up for 20 vacancies, and now it was understood that half of the advertised posts had either one or no applicants.

The IHCA is concerned that if the Government continues along its current path, the health service will not have its future leaders, and the development and advancement of medicine in Ireland will start to “fall off the cliff”.

The delegation outlined to the Commission the urgent need for the State and employers to honour the 2008 contract, end the discrimination against new entrants and reverse the FEMPI and other cuts introduced between 2009 and 2013.

It is understood the PSPC acknowledged the strong evidence base provided in the IHCA submission concerning the consultant recruitment crisis and the impact this was having on the delivery of care to patients, and the future sustainability of the public health service. Negotiations on a successor to the Lansdowne Road agreement are expected to begin immediately after the PSPC makes its initial report, which may be as early as April.

See ‘Is your contract worth the paper it’s written on?’

The post IHCA warns of ‘lost generation’ appeared first on Irish Medical Times.

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