Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended the use of private investigators to “spy” on consultants as part of a legal strategy against them.
Consultants claim they are owned up to €700m from the State over a pausing of promised pay increases which they claim is a breach of their contracts.
Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that the State is right to use private investigators to monitor individual doctors’ hours to build up a case against these consultants.
“This should not be considered an unprecedented action,” he said.
“We have people who check on people to make sure they are not claiming welfare while also working in the black economy. We have tax inspectors, part of whose role is to check up on people in all walks of society to see whether they are compliant with their tax.
“We had revenue inspectors, for example, counting the number of chip bags that came out of a chip shop to see whether that person was complying with the law.”
However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the use of private investigators to “spy” on consultants as they went about their daily lives “sets a very sinister and dangerous precedent”.
He accused the Taoiseach of being “cavalier” in his view that “consultants are fair game and we can take chances or risks with their constitutional rights”.
The dispute centres around a deal struck with consultants which would have seen them receive pay increases in return for working more hours in public hospitals. However, these rises were not paid when the financial crisis hit in 2008.
Consultants engaged in talks with the HSE yesterday and a High Court case was adjourned until 11am today to allow for further mediation.
Mr Varadkar hit out at some doctors who work in private hospitals when they should be in posts in a public hospital and who see more private patients than they are supposed to.
“The whole case the consultants have made, let us not forget, is that the State breached their contract,” he said.
“What sort of case do they have if it turns out they actually breached their own contract? If their case is that they deserve money, compensation, hundreds of thousands of euros, or perhaps millions, for each individual at the expense of the taxpayer and if their case is based on the idea that the State broke their contract, they do not have a case if they broke their own contract also.”
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