DUBLIN, Sept 17 Ireland's government has struck a deal with senior doctors that would save some 200 million euros a year and help halt a spending overrun criticised by the country's lenders, the health minister said on Monday.
While Ireland has won plaudits from across Europe for the strict implementation of an 85 billion euro ($112 billion) bailout, those monitoring its progress have told Dublin to quickly reverse a deficit in the health department that could reach 500 million euros by the end of the year.
Monday's agreement on new work practices follows an announcement by the country's health service last month that it would cut back on care for the elderly and overtime pay to find 130 million euros of new savings.
"The impact of what has been agreed has a vital financial benefit," health minister James Reilly said in a statement after the talks with hospital consultants which lasted all weekend and late into the night on Sunday.
Senior doctors have agreed to work more flexible hours while the starting salary for new consultants will be reduced by 30 percent in Ireland's latest effort to meet the terms of its bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
Reilly came under fire from backbench members of Dublin's coalition for including cuts that hurt services for the disabled in emergency measures announced in August.
Those cuts were reversed after campaigners, many of them in wheelchairs, staged a 24-hour protest outside government buildings.
Reilly has said he will have to find another 700 million euros of savings next year as Ireland wrestles with a budget deficit that is still among the highest in Europe.