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Hundreds of consultants are set to serve summons on the HSE following the decision to withdraw its appeal against the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) determinations, which found in favour of two IHCA members Dr. Tom Hogan and Dr. John McDermott.
The EAT determinations must now be implemented in full by the HSE including the payment of the unlawful salary deductions to the two consultants.
And it opens the door for a tsunami of similar claims from other consultants. Hundreds of IHCA members have filed and served summonses on their employers to vindicate their contract terms. In that respect, the IHCA expects that breach of contract test cases, encompassing underpayment of salary including retrospection, will be advanced in the near future.
However, Finance Minister Michael Noonan warned last week that the withdrawal was in respect of two consultants only.
And he stressed that the decision not to contest did not mean that further cases taken by any of the other 500 consultants would not be defended in court.
Mr. Martin Varley, Secretary General of the IHCA told IMN that unless the HSE were willing to open discussion, consultants would continue to go through the court system to see the carriage of justice, either through repeat cases such as this one, or through a breach of contract case.
He said: “We are always available for discussion but if the legal route is the only option for consultants, then they have the IHCA’s full support”.
Mr. Varley pointed out that there are “over 400 vacant permanent consultant posts in the Irish health service which is undermining the quality and safety of patient care, increasing delays in providing care and is leading to longer waiting lists”.
Mr. Varley stated on RTE’s Morning Ireland programme that the health service was currently paying €100 million per year on agency staff.
He felt that it would prove more cost-effective to honour the contract, employ consultants on a permanent basis and recruit back those who were trained in Ireland. He encourages the Department of Health to deal with the understaffing issue head on, rather than see the money go towards a temporary solution.
It has been estimated that it would cost somewhere in the region of €350 million from the health service to pay all the consultants.