The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) warned at the weekend that the country's best doctors are being forced to leave because of deteriorating working conditions and rampant budget cuts.
Consultants have suffered a succession of pay reductions in recent years while pay levels for new consultants have been hacked back by 25 per cent.
The association also warned that the 28 emergency departments across the country could not continue to function due to a continuing lack of resources.
IHCA president Dr Denis Evoy said: "The continued degradation of consultants' working conditions and contracts is changing the medical landscape in Ireland and resulting in a system that cannot cater for its patients."
He told the IHCA annual conference in Maynooth that around 20 per cent of consultant posts in the public health system were either vacant or merely filled on a temporary basis.
"Ireland's health service is being run with a focus on the implementation of declining annual budgets rather than encouraging excellence and making patients the priority," he said.
"An extra 230,000 patients went through the doors of our hospitals last year compared with 2007, a period that has seen cuts of around a quarter in acute services budgets.
"The continued focus on absolute budget cuts rather than a targeted emphasis on strategic savings is destined for abject failure."
And he finished with the stark warning: "Our health system and its front-line workers cannot continue to deliver the services being expected from them while maintaining acceptable levels of patient care."
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