SIX consultants at Mayo University Hospital have written to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, calling for 'equal pay for equal work' for their consultant colleagues appointed since 2012, writes CLAIRE McNAMARA.
Their email, which was written in October and released under the Freedom of Information Act, issues a stark warning that vital services currently available in the hospital will be disrupted and inevitability lead to discontinuation unless the issue is addressed.
They highlight their concern this pay disparity has on the ability of MUH to recruit and retain high calibre, fellowship-trained consultants.
The difference in salary being offered to recently appointed consultants is cited as the most significant barrier to recruitment and retention.
Also, with multiple expected retirements in the coming years, services in the hospital will be severely impacted by this inability to recruit new consultants, they warn.
The consultants maintain they all have the same work commitments, regardless of the time of recruitment, and it is fundamentally unfair to expect the same levels of productivity despite remuneration differences, which often approach 50% and can be much higher.
Therefore, they request that the salary scales in the 2008 contract be applied fairly to all consultants.
In October 2012, the then Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly, unilaterally reduced new entrant consultant salary rates by 30%.
However, recent attempts to address this inequity have failed and the fulfilment of the terms of the previously breached 2008 contract has only served to widen the gap between those hired prior to and after this time.
Up until October 2018, there were an unprecedented 450 approved consultant posts vacant in Ireland across all specialties, some of which are filled on a temporary or agency contract basis.
Separately, almost 99% of post-October 2012 consultants confirmed in an IHCA survey last July that the current terms of employment are having an adverse impact on the delivery of patient care due to the large number of posts that are unfilled or filled on a locum basis.
The problem is likely to exacerbate as 70% of consultants appointed after October 2012 are considering resignation to go overseas or work in the private sector if this inequality is not addressed.
In response to their email, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said it is clear that the difference in salary between those appointed pre-October 2012 and subsequently is a major issue for new entrants and in post and potential recruits.
The government remains committed to increasing the consultant workforce to support service delivery and to a consultant delivered service.
Notwithstanding recruitment and retention challenges, the number of consultants employed in the public health service has increased by 118 in the 12 months to the end of August 2018 and by 479 in the past five years.
Consideration will need to be given to potential solutions which are in line with public sector pay policy and available budgets, but this will be a significant challenge given the amounts involved but they will endeavour to address the position.