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Consultant changes finally agreed
[Posted: Mon 17/09/2012 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Agreement has been reached with the hospital consultant organisations on changes to their contracts, including more flexible rostering.
However, some issues have been referred on to further arbitration.
The agreement will mean that consultants will be available in hospitals through a longer working day and a longer working week.
The HSE said it is also pushing through a new salary scale of €116,000 to €121,000 for all newly-appointed consultants in future, despite the opposition of the consultant organisations. This is 30% less than the salary levels paid to existing consultants.
It says it is implementing these pay rates for new consultants even though the two consultant bodies, the IMO and IHCA, are firmly opposed to the move.
An IMO spokesman told irishhealth.com that health management and Minister James Reilly had made a 'serious retrograde step' in planning to implement these lower consultant salaries.
The spokesman said it would have serious implications for medical career structures, with new consultants in future doing the same work and having the same responsibilities but earning 30% less than their colleagues.
The IMO said that after previous pay cuts, it was already difficult to attract consultants into some specialties even before the new lower rates are introduced.
The lower pay for new consultants plan was not included as part of the agreement reached early this morning, nor was the plan for a completely new entry level grade of 'junior' consultant. However, the HSE says it will go ahead its plan to cut new consultants' pay.
Existing consultants' basic pay will not be affected by the new deal as it comes under the Croke Park Agreement.
Under the agreement thrashed out following marathon talks which started last Thursday evening, consultants will be rostered for five out of any seven days in the week, thereby ensuring a consultant presence in hospitals at weekends.
Agreement has also been reached on 24/7 rostering of consultants. The agreement will mean cuts to current overtime and on-call payments for consultants.
There are also to be new reporting arrangements between consultants and clinical directors.
Clinical directors will get extra responsibilities and will be responsible for areas such as consultant rostering and monitoring clinical performance.
It has also been agreed that consultants will speed up the processing of health insurance claims for private treatment in public hospitals, thereby improving hospital's cash flow.
Two issues are to be referred to the Labour Court for binding decision. These issues relate to specific payments to psychiatrists and arrangements for future consultant rest days.
Consultants had said HSE proposals for two rest days allowed in future per month for consultants on onerous rotas were not acceptable and had safety implications.
Proposals by health management to impose a major cut in 'historic leave' built up by consultants through untaken rest days are not in the agreement and are instead to be referred to the Labour Court for an unbinding decision.
Some consultants were retiring a year early due to built-up rest days and many were then asked to do their own locum during this time, thus getting 'double pay'. Health managers had been concerned at the huge cost of this historic leave.
The talks were concluded at around 8am. The final session of the negotiations began at 9am yesterday morning.
Although not all of management's proposals were included in the deal, the conclusion of an agreement with consultants incorporating a good deal of reform will be seen as a coup for beleaguered Health Minster James Reilly, who faces a Dail no-confidence vote this week.
The consultant bodies for their part, will stress that they resisted some of the more controversial proposals and that some issues have been referred on for further arbitration.
Both consultant bodies will further consult with members about the agreement.
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