"Appointment of new consultants should have gone ahead long ago" -- Ó Caoláin
Commenting on the suggestion that Minister Mary Harney 'may' move ahead with the appointment of hundreds of additional hospital consultants in light of the failure of talks on a new consultants' contract, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said these appointments should have gone ahead long ago. He accused the Minister and the consultants of 'presiding over a shambles in which public patients continue to suffer due to gross inequity in our hospital system'.
The Cavan/Monaghan TD said: "It is a disgrace that representatives of hospital consultants are still stonewalling the talks on a new contract. As far back as 2001 the Government Health Strategy recognised that 'greater equity for public hospital patients' was needed and that a new contract with hospital consultants was essential for this. The target date was the end of 2002. The Government's softly, softly approach to the consultants stands in stark contrast to the bullying approach it has taken to the campaign by the nurses organisations.
"It is shameful that consultants' representatives are holding out in defence of the indefensible 'Category Two' contract which allows consultants to draw very generous salaries from the public hospital system while continuing to operate for personal profit in the private health sector.
"Minister Harney now appears to be 'talking tough' but the Government has undermined its own position in these talks with its drive to privatise hospital services. Minister Harney's scheme to allocate land at public hospital sites to private hospital developers is reinforcing the two-tier public-private system. The current consultants' contract which, by the Government's own admission, is inequitable for public patients, is a cornerstone of the two-tier system.
"The Minister and the consultants are presiding over a shambles in which public patients continue to suffer due to gross inequality in our hospital system. The appointment of additional consultants should have gone ahead long ago and the Minister should proceed with it now without further delay. Patients in the public system desperately need these services and it is the Minister's duty to provide them."