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Consultants should withdraw threat to patients - Ó Caoláin

2 February, 2004

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as a "debacle" the threatened strike by hospital consultants over their disagreement with a new insurance scheme and has called on them to withdraw their proposed action. He said the Government also bore responsibility for failure to renegotiate the consultants' contract. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"This is a debacle which should never have been allowed to develop. Because of this dispute, patients will suffer. The consultants should immediately withdraw their threat to pull out from all but emergency hospital cover in three weeks' time.

"The issue of insurance cover for consultants should have been resolved long ago as part of the promised revision of the consultants' contract. Instead negotiations have continued since 2001 with no end in sight. The Government's own target date for revision of the contract, as set out in the Health Strategy, was the end of 2002. Therefore the Government also bears responsibility in this debacle.

"The existing contract gives hospital consultants a privileged position whereby most are paid handsomely for practice in the public system without proper accountability while also carrying out lucrative private practice. They are now seeking renewed insurance cover from the State to cover liability from private practice in the past. Their dispute is essentially with their British insurers - the Medical Defence Union -and they should not make Irish patients suffer in that row.

"This, once again, underlines the need to totally revise the consultants' contract and to create a new grade of hospital consultant who would work exclusively in the public system, as part of an overall effort to dismantle the grossly unequal two-tier public-private system." ENDS

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