Leading article

Daisy Hill Hospital recruitment just one of many problems facing health service

For ordinary people in Northern Ireland, the thought of being paid £1,500 to stay in a four-star hotel overnight with the possibility of not having to do any work, is absolutely staggering.

We are told that is the sort of money which is being offered to senior doctors to provide a night-time on-call service to the emergency department at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.

What is particularly surprising is that these undoubtedly generous terms have so far not been taken up which suggests that this is a more complex issue that goes beyond the purely financial.

As we know, the 24-hour A&E at Daisy Hill has been under significant pressure in recent months.

Fears the unit was to be downgraded earlier this year because of its reliance on locum medics sparked a public outcry and large-scale protests.

In May the hospital was given a reprieve following an agreement that support would be provided to the Southern Trust from across the north's health service.

According to the Department of Health, there have been preliminary discussions about the `potential for a regional rota' but pay rates and other arrangements have not been finalised.

Despite the considerable financial constraints facing the health service, it seems that money can be found to pay doctors a rate that may be hard to justify in the current climate.

Even with the inflated terms on offer, it seems that consultants have a number of concerns, including safety at the unit.

Clearly, it is proving exceedingly difficult to attract and retain senior doctors at Daisy Hill and simply throwing money at the problem may not be the answer.

It also sends out the wrong message to nurses and other health professionals who perform an essential role and are excluded from such lucrative arrangements.

Unfortunately, the situation at Daisy Hill is just one in a number of crises currently besetting the health service in Northern Ireland.

We need to see a proper strategy which can deal with lengthy waiting lists, reduced GP services and over stretched emergency departments.

Leading article

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