Doctors’ strike to cause severe disruption to hospital services

Outpatient appointments and elective surgery to be affected by action

Dr John Donnellan, chairman of the non-consultant hospital doctors committee at the IMO

Dr John Donnellan, chairman of the non-consultant hospital doctors committee at the IMO

Wed, Sep 4, 2013, 01:00

Significant disruption of hospital services is likely to result from the one-day strike called by junior doctors later this month.

Outpatient appointments, elective surgery and other non-urgent areas are expected to be severely affected by the industrial action planned on Wednesday, September 25th, over the issue of long working hours.

Announcing plans for a protracted campaign of industrial action on the issue, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which represents doctors, said non-consultant hospital doctors would also call a strike each week from Monday September 30th, in at least one hospital in each region in the country. The formal notice of industrial action was submitted yesterday following a special meeting of the council of the organisation. It has promised emergency services will remain unaffected.

Contingency plans
The Health Service Executive is expected to seek further clarification from the organisation today on the planned industrial action when the two sides meet to discuss contingency plans for the health service during the strike.

There was no comment from the HSE yesterday in response to the strike plans.

The chairman of the non-consultant hospital doctors committee, Dr John Donnellan, called on the HSE to produce a plan to resolve the working hours issue.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision for doctors to make and we would not be in this position were it not for the inaction and prevarication of the Department of Health and the HSE.

“Even now, the Minister for Health could resolve this issue by directing his colleagues to tackle this issue once-and-for-all,” Dr Donnellan said in a statement.

24-hour shifts
The doctors are demanding an immediate end to shifts in excess of 24 hours and an agreement for a planned move to compliance with the European working time directive by the end of 2014.

The meeting of the organisation’s council passed two motions; one sanctioning industrial action and a special motion expressing “grave concern at the inaction of the HSE in the face of illegal and dangerously long working hours which has a detrimental effect on doctors and patients alike”.

The HSE has said it is taking measures to ensure that the directive is complied with by the end of next year but the IMO says it has failed to come up with detailed proposals to resolve the long-running grievance of junior doctors.

While larger hospitals have managed to reduce the amount of long working hours by junior doctors, the HSE says there are still significant challenges in achieving compliance with the directive in smaller hospitals.

A ballot for industrial action produced a 97 per cent vote in favour among the 56 per cent of junior doctors who cast votes.