Hospital consultants have warned that they will undertake industrial action if the Government fails to come up with concrete plans to tackle the current recruitment crisis.
According to the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), there is a "palpable level of frustration" among consultants and non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) at having to deliver care in a service that is unsafe for both staff and their patients.
The IMO made its comments following a meeting with officials from the Department of Health, the HSE and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
At this meeting, the IMO highlighted the impact that the recruitment crisis is having on the health service, including:
-770,000 patients on hospital waiting lists, with a further 165,000 waiting for vital imaging services, such as MRI
-A severe shortage of specialists in particular areas, such as ophthalmology and psychiatry
-The mass emigration of doctors in training, depriving the service of the next generation of consultants.
The IMO also warned that empirical evidence suggests high levels of stress and burnout among doctors working in under-resourced and under-staffed services.
It has continually highlighted the fact that hospital consultants hired after October 2012 are paid 30% less than their colleagues hired before that date. It called for the abolition of this measure, which it insists has had a major impact on the recruitment and retention of doctors.
However, it said that at the meeting with Government officials, no proposals to address the current crisis in consultant recruitment were put forward. In light of this, the IMO has said that it will ballot its consultant and NCHD members for industrial action if the Government does not put forward any concrete proposals in the next 21 days.
"The Government has shown a complete lack of interest in producing any substantive solutions to this crisis, which is adversely affecting patients. We want to provide our patients with the best possible quality of care, but we can only do that in a system that is safe and properly resourced. We need to recruit more specialists into the vacant posts before any reform will be possible," commented consultant psychiatrist and former president of the IMO, Dr Matthew Sadlier.
Meanwhile, according to senior trainee, Dr Lisa Cunningham, "this is a vicious cycle for which the Government must take sole responsibility".
"This pay inequality has led to mass medical emigration, particularly among younger doctors, which leads to more pressurised conditions and inevitably a lower standard of care for patients," she said.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.