HOSPITAL consultants have been receiving retirement lump sums of more than €400,000 plus annual pensions of up to €125,000 a year, it is revealed today.
The lucrative pensions and golden handshakes are disclosed as senior doctors continue to resist changes to their work rosters designed to give patients more access to out-of-hours care.
New figures show that the Health Service Executive (HSE) spent at least €10m on lump sums for 35 consultants who retired last year -- four received €400,000 and 26 more got in excess of €300,000.
Another doctor got a golden handshake of almost €415,000.
They also receive an annual six-figure pension which means that some senior doctors who retired last year got a windfall of more than half a million euro.
The generous golden handshakes were linked to the outgoing consultants' salaries which can be around €200,000 each year.
Details of the lucrative packages for medical consultants have been released under the Freedom of Information Act as the HSE grapples with the thorny issue of pay and rostering for its most senior staff.
The cost of pay and pensions is a huge burden for the health service which is stumbling towards a half-billion budget deficit this year.
Like other public servants, the pay of consultants cannot be touched under the terms of the Croke Park Agreement. But Health Minister James Reilly has warned that those who continue to resist change will risk putting themselves outside of that protection.
It means that consultants' pay will be in the firing line for the first time as the Government is pressurised to squeeze more savings from senior health workers and public servants.
Yesterday Dr Reilly admitted that the Government's ability to "sweat" the deal to achieve maximum savings "has not been fully been exercised".
But in a major test of the embattled Health Minister's mettle, many consultants are resisting changes to their working patterns and have forced the issue into the Labour Court.
Demands by hospitals that consultants work evening and weekend shifts from November 5 will come before the court this Friday, which will then issue a recommendation.
Dr Reilly warned yesterday that existing consultants who refuse to work new flexible hospital rosters risk a pay cut.
"That recommendation will be binding. If doctors don't comply the matter will go before the implementation body for the Croke Park Agreement.
"If consultants lose the cover of that agreement then there are serious consequences for the salaries of existing consultants."
Current consultants have taken a recent pay cut, but their annual salaries can still nudge €200,000. And former consultants who got out of the HSE before last February's retirement deadline enjoyed a bumper payout based on their old salaries.
The figures obtained under Freedom of Information rules also showed:
- Five more consultants received lump sums of €350,000 last year.
- Seventeen consultants got lump sums of between €300,000 and €350,000.
- Nine consultants received between €200,000 and €300,000.
- Aside from lump sums there are 25 former employees of the HSE -- mainly consultants -- who are getting annual pensions cheques totalling €113,493 -- or €2,100 each week.