In today's Irish Independent, an article by Eilish O'Regan highlights that hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to fill posts for 'yellow pack' consultancy jobs. Although the evidence is not completely convincing in that only 21 of the 104 offers had to be re-advertised, it is backed up with anecdotal evidence and on a personal level, it's what I am hearing on the ground too.
You can read more about it here â‚¬116,000 hospital jobs go unfilled - Independent.ie or indeed, buy the paper and support Irish jobs (regardless of your opinion on the newspaper).
The central issue is that the jobs in question have seen their salaries slashed - consultants for public only patients from €166,000 to €116,000 and public/private from €156,000 to €109,000. As you may be aware, once your salary is in excess of €33,000 you are effectively paying a tax rate of 52% after all the USC charges etc. are taken into account.
It comes as no surprise then, that doctors, particularly home-grown ones (expensively educated by the Irish taxpayer) are gladly fleeing this country heading for destinations where their skills are remunerated fairly, and/or where the politics of hospital life come second to patients' welfare.
This brings into question the quality of personnel that the HSE are hiring. After all, to get the best person for a job as critical as a consultant is, you want to ensure that you get a strong set of applicants, and proceed through a rigorous process to find the best candidate. I doubt very much that the HSE would be able to commentate on their recruitment process on an individual basis, but if only one or two applied for the job in question, are we merely 'making do' with whatever person walks off the street who has the academic qualifications, but not the ability?
Remember, apart from providing life-saving operations, consultants are also critical in the prevention of serious illnesses by spotting and eliminating early signs of diseases, that provide economic trauma to the HSE and personal trauma for the patient.
My basic point is this though. Regardless of what side of the fence politically you are on, people must realise that failing to provide consultants with salaries that attract the best rather than the dross, will have a detrimental and far more costly effect on our health system, and yes, before people jump up and down, this includes nurses too.
Why then, whenever we question the salaries paid to financial advisers, political advisers, staff in NAMA, staff in the Irish banking system, we are always told that without these kinds of salaries, we would never attract the quality of personnel required to run these institutions effectively?
Are financial consultants more important than medical consultants?