Wednesday 18 July 2007

Doctors’ Earnings

We've heard a lot of discussion lately about the new contract for consultants. It's true that the docs are unhappy with certain changes in their contract - but the public was left with the impression that they weren't happy with the proposed salary. Well how well paid are our docs?

A recent OECD survey compared the earnings of GPs and Speicialist across 23 rich countries. Where possible they showed the earnings of self employed docs and also those of salaried docs. For Ireland all GPs are essentially self employed so there are no salaried figures. Also for Ireland the OECD showed only the earnings of salaried specialists. Perhaps the figures for the self employed were hard to determine?

The OECD compared calculated the ration between doc salaries and GNP per head.

It turns out the Irish docs aren't doing so bad at all. Irish GPs shared second place with those in New Zealand at a ratio of 4.0 (on average doc earns 4 times the average GNP per head) For comparison Canada 3.3, France 2.8, Nederlands 3.5. Top of the league comes the US at 4.4.

For salaried specialists Ireland at 4.6 is again in second place behind the US and UK who top the pole at 4.8. For comparison, Denmark 2.8, Nederlands 4.0, Norway 1.6. (It should be pointed out that where figures are available for self-employed specialists they are generally significantly higher - Belgium 7.8 say).

Of course a snapshot like this doesn't tell the whole story. But if these figures are reliable it's very hard not to accept that Irish docs are pretty well paid.

We the paying customer or taxpayer have every right to ask why are Irish docs at the upper end of the scale? What conditions in our system make it so? And if there are constraints on entry - like limited med school numbers - who is preventing change? Clearly we need more docs. Clearly more people want to be docs - sky high points for med is simply screaming out that this is the case. When the IT sector boomed in the mid to late 90s, 3rd level places gradually swelled to meet demand. Why is it not the same for docs?

The docs, the unis, and the Minster for Health should be repeatedly asked to explain this. It's our money and our health service.

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