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Burke welcomes commitment to implement European Working Time Directive for NCHDs

5th March 2013 - Colm Burke TD

Tuesday 5th March 2013

Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and member of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, Colm Burke, has today (Tuesday) welcomed a commitment by the Director General Designate of the HSE Mr Tony O’Brien to reduce the average weekly hours and the number of shifts undertaken by NCHDs in 2013.   Mr O’Brien expressed assurances that full implementation of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) would be secured by next year.

“The commitment comes ahead of today’s (Tuesday) meeting of the Health Committee, which the IMO and HSE are on my request due to attend, to discuss concerns which I have repeatedly raised about the HSE’s repeated failure to comply with the EWTD.

“Criticism of excessive working hours for NCHDs has 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 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 these 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 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 junior doctors are said to work longer than the maximum allowable 24 hour period, with most not being granted proper breaks and compensatory rest.

“In order to address this issue the HSE must firstly implement a system to accurately measure the working hours of NCHDs.    A system of structured rotas, which will adequately resource our hospitals while ensuring compliance with the Directive, must then be put in place.

“It has been completely unjust to impose these levels of hardship on our medical staff, many of whom have felt forced to leave this country for better working conditions abroad.   I will be requesting that representatives from the HSE today reiterate the commitment given by Mr O’Brien and outline their plans to achieving compliance with the Working Time Directive, to end the exploitation of Junior Doctors.”

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