OVER €17m is being paid out to a 'golden circle' of Irish academic consultants who are benefiting from a dual salary from both the HSE and the universities.
There are currently over 100 academic medical consultants employed across the third-level sector. They perform the role of clinical work and extra lecturing.
Professor William Reville of University College Cork has hit out at the "double-pay" of these controversial appointments, saying some individuals are being rewarded a wage higher than the presidents of the universities themselves.
"There are only 24 hours in one day, and unless there is some miracle happening by which these academic consultants have 48 hours in one day, they are working in one job and being paid twice over – by the HSE for clinical appointments and the universities for teaching.
"There is a big gap between their pay and their standard professorial counterparts' salary and, in truth, they would not be working twice as hard as their counterparts to justify this," he said.
According to pay scales issued by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) a professor in UCC acting also in a consultant capacity is awarded a salary of €222,394 a year. Current typical salary for a professor working solely in a lecturing capacity ranges from €60,000 to €100,000.
Figures released by UCC show that there are 26 academic medical consultants currently employed in the college. Information from the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) shows there are 16 such appointments in UCD, 12 in Trinity College Dublin, 17 in Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and nine in NUIG.
It is understood there is considerable tension in the universities at the nature of these appointments, with one source in UCD pointing out that they are putting further financial strain on an already struggling third-level sector.
"There are serious worries about these appointments, and eventually they are going to have severe cost implications also. To take on such employments in reality is a commitment that our universities or health service can not afford right now."
The rate of pay for these appointments differs considerably from that of their English counterparts. The same position in England would command a maximum salary of £95,000 (€105,000) going right back to £35,000 (€38,000).