The Taoiseach and the Minister for Health launched extraordinary attacks on our hard-working front-line healthcare staff earlier this week. They sought in those attacks to place the blame for the difficulties in the health service on those staff, our doctors and nurses. They suggested that the solution to many of the pressures in our hospitals was that staff would work over Christmas. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, said that the Taoiseach's analysis was entirely correct. This is a complete over-simplification of the challenges facing our health services. It is a pathetic attempt to deflect from the Government's role and responsibility for the difficulty in our health service and hospitals. Blaming front-line staff who work 24 hours a day for 365 days of the year, including Christmas Day, New Year's Day and bank holidays, is not acceptable when conditions are as challenging as they are. Blaming existing front-line staff is difficult to take when there are 300 vacant consultant posts and 252 fewer staff nurses working in our hospitals this month compared to last December.
Patients have major problems accessing our healthcare service. When they do get access they are met with excellent staff or they are generally met with excellent staff. However, we have seen today how that is not always the case with the extraordinary judgment yesterday from the President of the High Court, Mr. Justice Peter Kelly, in a case involving the suspension of a junior doctor in one of our maternity hospitals. The doctor never worked as a doctor in any other hospital. Consultants who worked with him said he did not even meet the basic standards. Yet, he is reported to have obtained an impressive score in interview statistics. Mr. Justice Kelly said that the particular case is not isolated.
This is an appalling situation. I want answers to several questions from the Tánaiste today. When was the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, informed of this particular case? The judgment was only published yesterday but it was delivered some weeks ago. Can the Tánaiste confirm that the Government is investigating this particular issue? Can the Tánaiste give guarantees that there are no other rogue doctors working within our system? I am referring to doctors who are not in a position to deliver on basic skills that people expect. What new measures will be put in place?
This problem was not only highlighted yesterday. Deputy Donnelly has referred to the recruitment of non-consultant hospital doctors on several occasions. We have highlighted the inadequacies in recruitment on several occasions. This issue is ongoing and should be a matter of priority for the Minister for Health.
Instead of attacking our doctors and nurses to get headlines and deflecting from the Government's responsibility, can the Tánaiste outline the Government plans for dealing with this serious issue and for reassuring the public that our doctors and healthcare professionals are up to standard?