Doctors to ballot for industrial action over hours

IMO says patient safety being put at risk due to long workings hours

Mon, Jul 15, 2013, 15:37

THE Irish Medical Organisation will ballot its members in August to approve industrial action for non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) who are working “illegal, onerous and cruel hours”.

At the launch of its campaign this morning Dr John Donnellan, chair of the NCHD committee of the IMO, said long working hours were putting patients’ safety at risk. “Doctors are being asked to work consecutive hours - up to 72 solidly in some instances. You can’t be naive enough to think that that’s not going to affect patient safety and care provided at some level,” he said.

“Luckily so far there hasn’t been any definite issues that I’m aware of but it’s just a matter of time,” he added.

Dr Donnellan said that potential industrial action would likely begin as “short-timeframe walk-outs or protests held outside places of work and if we weren’t getting meaningful engagement from the HSE I could see that escalating very rapidly up to something including all-out strike”.

Assistant director of industrial relations with the IMO, Eric Young said NCHDs were “in crisis”.

“The Government are flouting legally agreed contracts and European Law in respect of working times for non consultant hospital doctors .

“This is posing risks for patients and NCHDs and it can go on no longer and a campaign is now underway from NCHDs to say enough is enough. The time for talking has passed and the IMO now proposes to initiative a ballot for industrial action.”

He said that industrial action was “the very last line of activity” that IMO members wished to take but said it had “exhausted every other avenue”. He added that, any action would be designed to minimise the impact on patients.

The ballot is due to begin on August 8th with results expected by the end of the month.