Dáil Éireann - Volume 602 - 11 May, 2005

Written Answers. - Hospital Staff.

  111. Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made to date with hospital consultants on the renegotiation of their contract; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15373/05]

  Ms Harney: As the Deputy will be aware, it is over 12 months since preliminary talks were held between management and the medical organisations to discuss the commencement of negotiations on a new contract for hospital consultants. Unfortunately, the opposition of those organisations to the extension of the clinical indemnity scheme to cover claims against consultants has led to a decision by the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association, or IHCA, not to participate in further negotiations pending a resolution of the issues involved. That has resulted in the commencement of talks on a new contract being postponed.

I am anxious to break the long-standing deadlock that has arisen, and I regret that the medical organisations continue to say that residual issues arising from the introduction of the clinical indemnity scheme, to cover claims against consultants and certain other industrial relations matters, should be resolved to their satisfaction before they will agree to negotiate a new contract. Discussions are continuing with a view to resolving the former. I emphasise that the root cause is the withdrawal of cover for historic liabilities of consultants by the Medical Defence Union. I have given the medical organisations an assurance that consultants who have been unreasonably left without cover will receive State assistance for a legal defence for any case that arises against them. That assurance has been endorsed by the Government. In all the circumstances, I would be hopeful that the medical organisations will see their way to enter into negotiations with the Health Service Executive on a new contract for hospital consultants at an early date.