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€21m agency cost to HSE to fill gap left by junior doctor exodus – Burke

25th July 2013 - Colm Burke TD

Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and Seanad Spokesperson on Health, Colm Burke, has today (Thursday) said urgent action must be taken quickly to stem the €21 million annual cost of employing junior doctors (NCHDs) under agency contracts. The call follows a commitment given by Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly TD, to commence a review of the training and employment structures which exist for junior doctors in Irish hospitals. The commitment was given at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children today following questions from Senator Burke on the matter.

“The HSE has, for some time, been contracting agencies for the provision of NCHDs. The figures which I have obtained demonstrate a spend of €8,565,200 on junior doctors alone for the first six months of this year.

“In 2012, the total cost to the HSE of employing junior doctors under agency contracts was over €18 million. The cost of these services is likely exceed that figure and could reach €21 million this year as the HSE has encountered severe difficulties in recruiting junior doctors for the second six month period of this year.

“I have consistently raised concerns in relation to the excessive working hours and employment conditions which are available to junior doctors in the health service. These conditions are impacting not only the lives and the well-being of our hospital staff but are putting patient safety at risk.

“Up until now there has been a reluctance to engage in a meaningful process to effectively tackle these matters. This has resulted in half of Irish trained NCHDs leaving the country in search of work overseas. Unfortunately, the HSE has chosen short-term measures, plugging the gaps with a mixture of agency and overseas staff.

“In the period 2000 – 2010 there was a 259% increase in the number of foreign trained doctors registering with the Irish Medical Council. We have become over reliant on foreign trained doctors to come and work in Ireland. However, recent trends are now suggesting that they too, like Irish doctors, have become dissatisfied with working conditions here and are now choosing countries other than Ireland for employment.

“I have spent a long time highlighting a range of issues of concern pertaining to NCHDs and I hope that the commitment given by the Minister today will be the beginning of a meaningful process aimed at addressing these concerns, improving employment conditions and ultimately retaining highly qualified junior doctors in Ireland.”

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