Legislation to allow key health professionals defer their retirement from the public health service is to be voted on by Seanad Éireann. Extensive amendments have been tabled to the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill by Fianna Fáil Senator Dr. Keith Swanick, which are designed to allow critical health professionals postpone their retirement under mutual agreement with their respective employers.

The new rules, if passed, would apply to key nursing, medical and consultant personnel within the Health Service, including organisations funded directly by the HSE, the Department of Health and all the major health service providers.

The key element of these changes would allow the Minister for Health to introduce regulations to allow critical health professionals remain in their roles past the current retirement.

According to Senator Swanick, “Our health system is suffering from a severe staff shortage, which is impacting on services and patient outcomes and this Government needs to start looking seriously at options to address this.  The Irish Medical Organisation claims that there are over 250 unfilled consultant posts in Ireland, while a quarter of advertised consultant posts received no applications at all.

“The mandatory age based retirement within the health system is damaging to society, because individuals who are willing and able to contribute to society are precluded from doing so. This is an arbitrary system and gives no regard to the choices of individuals. It is widely accepted that by retaining certain older professionals within the health system, clinical outcomes are improved through the retention of experience, knowledge and mentoring capacity.  In the fast paced world of the medicine, it is crucial to have the appropriate blend of experience and youth working side by side.

“This legislation will not affect the option for an employee to retire – all health professionals will be able to retire at the age stipulated in their employment contract. Nobody will be required to work past their retirement age, unless they wish to do so, and this is a hugely important provision.

“Everyone should have the right to retire, but equally people should have the right to continue to work past the arbitrary retirement age, if they see fit. I have been speaking to many highly skilled consultants, doctors and nurses who did not want to retire and who received a letter informing them that they were no longer of service to the State. It makes no sense”, said Senator Swanick.

“As a doctor, I am well aware of the impact that these staff shortages are having on services.  There are not enough senior consultants, GPs, or specialist nursing staff to cope with the current workloads within the system.  There has been widespread consultation on this issue and it is now time to act to ensure that the health professionals, who wish to continue in the public health system, can do so.”