Press Release

Martin calls on hospital consultants to defer action

“Patients should not be jeopardised”

Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin T.D., today asked hospital consultants to defer their industrial action, saying that patients should not be jeopardised. In particular it is unacceptable that those public patients waiting longest should be targeted. 11,000 patients have been treated under the National Treatment Purchase Fund last year and it is estimated that further 12,000 will be treated this year – why deprive these people of their treatment?

“I am urging hospital consultants to rethink their plans for strike action while the Department of Health and Children continued in its efforts to resolve the outstanding issue of historical liabilities. Consultants are in fact now undermining the Governments negotiating position, by effectively siding with the MDU (Medical Defence Union)” Minister Martin said.

“A new fully comprehensive State backed medical indemnity scheme is now in place. Rather than being rushed, it is in place after years of planning and negotiation. The threatened dispute is solely about a demand that the State allow this insurance body to walk away from liabilities which might arise from cover it has already granted” added Minister Martin.

“Actuarial advice I have received puts the potential exposure to the Irish taxpayer at €400 million – the demand being put to me and the Government is that we take many millions which could be available for the development of services and use it to pay claims for which the former insurers -the MDU, have received premiums. ”

“We have been told that the MDU might unilaterally try to withdraw from its historical liabilities. We have consistently told the consultants´ organisation that we will in such cases provide full legal backing and indemnify any consultant taking an action against the MDU to force them to meet their responsibilities” the Minister added.

“I have to do what is in the best interest of patients, consultants and the taxpayer – I cannot allow a body walk away from the table without fulfilling its obligation. It is the MDU that is leaving consultants unprotected in respect of historical liabilities.”

The Minister concluded by saying “Industrial action should be deferred so that consultants can work with the government to allow a resolution to this issue to be found.”