asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to a report (details supplied) regarding a shortage of Army doctors; if he will comment on the accuracy of the report and indicate the steps he proposes to take to bring the number of doctors, from its present strength of 35, up to its establishment strength of 71 and the number of dental officers from seven to 14; if he considers that poor pay and conditions are partly responsible for the shortages; and if he will consider setting up a special medical cadet scheme as a matter of urgency.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Shortage of Army Doctors.
I have seen the report to which the Deputy has referred. I am aware of the shortage of medical and dental officers in the Army Medical Corps. The pay and conditions of such officers are at present under examination with a view to increasing the strength position.
The question of setting up a cadet scheme for training of medical officers is also being examined but this would not yield any result for many years.
I am glad to see it is under examination, but when will the results of the examination be concluded and when will we have those results? I said in my question that the present strength was 35. Would the Minister accept that since I put down that question, the number has dropped to 31, with four more due to retire, while the establishment strength is 71? What yardstick is used when settling their salaries?
I cannot answer the first part of the Deputy's question——
I can tell the Minister the position.
Please do not tell the Minister anything.
In the absence of his having certain information I want to help him.
I appreciate that and I accept the Deputy's word but there is always the possibility that the Deputy was misinformed by a third party.
My question asked if the Minister would consider introducing a medical cadetship into the Army when we cannot reach the establishment strength any other way.
That suggestion is being examined. The question of the setting up of a cadet scheme for the training of medical officers is also being examined but this would not yield any results for many years.
What yardstick is used in the assessing the salaries of those medical officers. It must be remembered that we have fallen far short of the establishment strength. Three years ago the pay of the Army medical officers was ahead of hospital registrars but today it is about 7 per cent below. As long as that condition remains we will have a bad situation getting progressively worse.
We must watch the situation and take corrective action where necessary.
What corrective action has been taken over the last three years?
We recently advertised for more doctors——
The Minister is being contemptuous.
——and we hope to appoint four more.