[Sinn Fein]

30th January 2003

Government must challenge ``privileged position'' of consultants - Ó Caoláin

Sinn Fein Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has called on the Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin TD to ``take on the privileged position of consultants'' following the latest report which has highlighted their powerful role within the health services. Deputy Ó Caoláin pointed out that the Government had failed to reach the target set out in the National Health Strategy for the conclusion of an agreement on a revised contract for hospital consultants.

Commenting on the leaked report of the Brennan Commission, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

``For the second time in a week a study of our health services has identified the privileged position occupied by consultants who manipulate the public health services to facilitate their private practice. The Brennan report recommends clear accountability of consultants including a cap on the number of private patients treated in public hospitals. It urges that consultants be required to plan the use of the resources allocated to them.

``This report comes two days after bed-blocking by consultants, resulting in worsening waiting lists and adding to the crisis A and E situation, was highlighted by the CAPITA report.

``In the National Health Strategy (Action 89) the Government promises that `greater equity for public patients will be sought on a revised contract for hospital consultants'. This was to be achieved by agreement of a revised contract for hospital consultants by the end of 2002. The Government has missed this target. Yesterday I tabled a Dáil question to the Minister for Health and Children asking when an agreement will be reached on a revised contract for hospital consultants. The Minister was unable to indicate when negotiations will conclude or even whether an agreement will be reached.

``Through their professional bodies the consultants have a veto on the deployment of their services throughout the health system. Too often their decisions are based on the career needs of their profession rather than on the healthcare needs of service users. This must change or else reform of the system will prove impossible.

``It is time the Government really challenged the privileged position of consultants. Contracts must be revised and there must be a new relationship which harnesses the skills and dedication of all health professionals to provide true equity and the best possible care.''

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