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Independent candidate Peter Casey says medical specialists should pay zero tax to ensure Ireland attracts the consultants needed to cut “out of control” waiting lists.

Mr Casey said people in rural counties such as Donegal are being “hardest hit and are paying with their lives” because of the HSE’s inability to entice the specialists needed into regional hospitals.

He is backing calls for a reversal of the salary cuts imposed on new consultants appointed since 2012. He also supports scrapping the “ludicrous” HSE recruitment embargo enforced by the government.

Mr Casey said: “Reduced pay for new consultants has resulted in a two-tier pay system that has led to the drain of our best young medical specialists to other countries. The health minister’s recruitment embargo is further putting lives at risk and this is highlighted in Donegal by the shameful failure to provide an Acute Stroke Unit for Letterkenny University Hospital. It’s disgraceful that the government is blocking recruitment of the specialist staff needed to run the existing facility in Letterkenny.”

Mr Casey added: “There’s a general consensus in this country that we need around 1,000 more medical consultants specialising in various fields.

“I fully back the Irish Hospital Consultants Association’s (IHCA) plea for the restoration of pay parity for new consultants.

“I propose that we offer essential medical specialists a zero percent tax rate for the next ten years should they choose to return or relocate to Ireland to serve our regional general hospitals.

“This solution will cost us €50m to €60m a year to provide 1,000 new consultants. The money that these consultants then put back into our economy via the purchase goods and services – and the VAT that’s paid on those – will mean this initiative to save Irish lives will cost us virtually nothing.

“We should treat consultants just like we treated artists a number of years ago – after all they are the fine artists of the medical profession.

“People are waiting far too long to see consultants in Donegal and throughout Ireland – they are literally dying on waiting lists. Immediate action that is based on smart business sense needs to be taken to address this consultancy crisis.”