Junior hospital doctors to ballot for industrial action against HSE over ‘illegal’ working hours

Thousands of junior doctors are to be balloted for industrial action in protest as what they say are unsafe working hours and breaches of employment law.

he trainees, known as non consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs), who are members of the Irish Medical Organization said there are major breaches in working hours and contract entitlements

Spokesman Dr John Cannon said industrial action was likely if there is not an “urgent and serious” engagement by the HSE to address long-standing concerns about working conditions, safe hours and routine breaches of contract.

He described the mood of his colleagues as “demoralised, frustrated and angry”.

He launched a ballot of members to seek approval for industrial action up to and including strike action in the event that the HSE does not engage meaningfully to resolve the situation and implement much needed reform.

“While no doctor ever wants to go out on strike, the committee feels that to allow the current situation to continue would pose a substantial and unacceptable risk to patient safety. The IMO’s NCHD committee is therefore recommending members to vote in favor of industrial action up to and including strike action,” Dr Cannon said.

The 7,500 junior doctors make up two thirds of the medical workforce in Irish hospitals providing care to patients.

Despite significant changes to the demographic of the workforce and the heavy reliance on international doctors, the basic structure of training has not changed for decades, an IMO press conference was told today.

Research among the doctors found hospital administrators routinely “abuse” trainees with long working hours. Some 96pc have been required to work over 48 hours a week – many on multiple occasions.

“This is a flagrant abuse of EU Working Time Directives and threatens patient safety with exhausted doctors expected to provide key clinical advice and treatment. 40pc of NCHDs have been required to work over 24 hours in one shift,” said the IMO.

Some 76pc of hospitals do not provide suitable rest breaks, the IMO said, adding that despite being required to work illegal hours, many hospitals don’t provide adequate rest areas or on-call facilities for exhausted medics.

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