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Burke calls on HSE to engage with Irish Medical Organisation to avert strike action

30th August 2013 - Colm Burke TD

Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and the Party’s Seanad Spokesperson on Health, Colm Burke, has today (Friday) called on the HSE to immediately engage with the IMO and make every effort to avert strike action by young hospital doctors.

In February 2013, the IMO and the Department of Health made presentations to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children. At that meeting an indication was given that every effort would be made to implement the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) without delay so that patient safety could be maintained and the practice of young hospital doctors working excessively long shifts could be brought to an end.

“Concerns have been raised from a range of sectors in relation to the hours that NCHDs are having to work within our health service. Complaints have been forthcoming from unions, the public, politicians, sectors of the media and from the doctors themselves about the current situation, which is not only putting patient safety at risk but is impacting severely on the lives and the well-being of our hospital staff.

“As set out in the Directive, and in supporting Irish legislation, NCHDs should be working no more than a 48 hour week as and from the 1st August 2009. Anecdotal evidence suggests that very few junior doctors, if any, are actually working so few hours.

“Of particular concern to the IMO is the fact that the HSE claims that the average working week of NCHDs amounts to 56 hours, which in itself contravenes the stipulations of the Directive. The IMO rightly asserts that the use of average hours is inappropriate as the EWTD applies to individual doctors and not NCHDs en masse.

“The Organisation suggests that 40% of NCHDs are working in excess of 61 hours per week, with 16% carrying out their on-site duties over a 71 hour working week. More than half (56%) of young hospital doctors are said to work longer than the maximum allowable 24 hour period with most not being granted proper breaks and compensatory rest. We don’t allow airline pilots, truck drivers or factory workers to be treated in this way, so why should we allow young hospital doctors to work in environments that put their own health at risk, as well as the health of their patients.

“It is completely unjust to impose this level of hardship on our medical staff, many of whom feel they have no choice when it comes to their working hours. I have long been banging the drum about the standard of living that is on offer to NCHDs in Ireland, when compared to other countries such as Australia and New Zealand, and for the need to address the issues faced by them to ensure that we do not suffer a brain drain and lose our best to foreign shores.

“Our NCHDs provide an invaluable service and are the bedrock of our health service. I am calling on the HSE to enforce the EWTD without delay and to bring an end to the punitive arrangement that currently sees young hospital doctors being exploited in this way.”

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