Talks are to take place on Friday between hospital consultants and Minister for Health Simon Harris on the Government's proposals for a new consultant contract and related issues.

Last month, in a ballot, consultant and non-consultant hospital doctor members of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) voted overwhelmingly for industrial action, over the pay disparity for more recently appointed consultants and manpower shortages.

The IMO has said it is unfortunate that it took a ballot for industrial action to get the Government to react.

The union said it is continuing its preparations for industrial action "scheduled to begin in the coming weeks".

Dr Matthew Sadlier, a former IMO President, said the IMO wanted real action, not just electioneering talk and that it will continue with strike plans, unless the minister comes up with a serious attempt to deal with the consultant crisis.

In December, the Government tabled proposals to offer consultants a salary of €250,000 a year, to commit to a new public only contract.

The salary range will be €180,000 to €222,000, rising to €250,000 this year.

From the middle of this year, the Government has said that all future consultant appointments will be to a new Sláintecare public only contract.

Existing consultants will be offered the option to switch to the new contract, or retain their existing contract.

Mr Harris has also indicated that he wants to discuss work practice changes with consultants, including having 24/7 cover and provision for more weekend discharges.

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