Hospital consultant in tribunal case over contract
A hospital consultant has taken a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal seeking payments he alleges are due because the HSE reneged on the pay terms of the new consultants’ contract agreed in 2008.
Dr John McDermott, who is a consultant endocrinologist at James Connolly Hospital, has taken his case under the Payment of Wages Act.
If he succeeds, it will be open to every consultant in the country to take similar claims, which could impose a significant financial burden on the Health Service Executive.
Under the new contract, Dr McDermott would have been entitled to a salary of €190,000, but in return he had to agree to work extra hours, report to a clinical director, and reduce his private practice to no more than 20% of his clinical workload.
He signed the contract in September 2008, and should have been entitled to have the contract backdated to July 2008.
However, the HSE only implemented the first half of the pay rise on 1 January 2009 with no retrospectivity, and never implemented the second tranche due in June 2009.
The HSE has defended its failure to pay the full terms of the contract, arguing that it could not do so without the sanction of the then minister for health and children, Mary Harney, who had not sanctioned all the payments because of the financial situation at the time.
Dr McDermott told the tribunal he was told by the manager of James Connolly Hospital that he was authorised to offer Dr McDermott the new contract.
It was never stated by the manager or in the terms of the contract that the contract was conditional on sanction from the minister.
The claimant accused the HSE of engaging in obfuscation and “smoke and mirrors”, adding that it did not take a genius to draw up a contract with that kind of caveat.
Dr McDermott concluded his evidence this morning.
HSE official Andrew Condon, who oversaw the consultant contract negotiations, said that the HSE could not pay the financial terms of the contract without ministerial sanction.
He will continue his evidence this afternoon.
Another consultant previously based at James Connolly Hospital, Dr Thomas Hogan, has taken a similar EAT case, and a ruling is awaited.
Separately, it is understood that a number of other consultants are planning to take legal action through the courts for breach of contract against the HSE.