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Why there’s no doctor in the house

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There was an interesting discussion on Newstalk’s @BreakfastNT between presenter Colette FitzPatrick and Dr. Austin Byrne @austinepbyrne from the Irish Medical Council regarding the extra money doctors want so that they will administer a childhood vaccination programme. There’s currently a stand-off between the HSE and @IMO_IRL about this issue, the IMO claiming that they haven’t heard anything from the HSE about their claim since last July.

Paxman style

Colette FitzPatrick is an assiduous asker of questions. However she got roughly the same amount of information from Dr. Byrne as his organisation says it has received from @HSELive when she asked him a very simple question. She asked how much extra the doctors wanted for administering the new vaccine. The response was (roughly) that doctors in Ireland are very good at administering vaccines. She continued, Paxman style, interrupting the good doctor but he was not interested in talking cash numbers, preferring talk patient numbers, adding how many minutes it takes to give a vaccine. Such obfuscation makes the public uneasy. Why are they avoiding answering the question?

Begrudgery and anger

Normally ISME would leave doctors and others to fight their own battles but this case is different. Kids’ vaccines are being held up due to the stand-off. Public Health is now a ‘negotiable.’ Doctors say they want more money for more work. But we don’t know how much more they want. And that does bother us. This is public money. This is our money. Secrecy begets begrudgery and anger. Groups of people can feel they are being left behind, or some other group is getting a better deal than they have. This in turn causes industrial relations problems that directly affect the health of the economy – and there’s no reason for hiding these deals.

Every penny counts

It should be public policy that every penny spent from the public purse is out in the open.  This would help both the public and private sectors as it might diffuse some of the suspicions that each has of the other.


Dr. Byrne did raise an interesting point in trying to defend his members’ call for more money. He said that we train more doctors per capita than other OECD countries but have the lowest number of indigenous doctors working in our health service. Between the lines it appears that we are training doctors, at taxpayers’ expense, to leave the jurisdiction for a lifetime of very well-paid work abroad because they feel they’re not paid enough here. If money is what they’re after that’s fine but it might be worth asking the doctor whether it’s time to ask for our émigré doctors to pay off some of the real cost of their tax-payer subsidised training and that money could then be used for extra pay for their stay-behind medical brothers and sisters who choose to stay working in Ireland?