‘I had to use hospital bathroom as office’- new IMO president

Trevor Duffy says relationship between HSE and union has become ‘almost dysfunctional’

Dr Matthew Sadlier, outgoing President of the IMO, (left) is  photographed with incoming president Dr Trevor Duffy at the union’s annual conference at Carton House Hotel, Maynooth Co Kildare. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Dr Matthew Sadlier, outgoing President of the IMO, (left) is photographed with incoming president Dr Trevor Duffy at the union’s annual conference at Carton House Hotel, Maynooth Co Kildare. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 19:33

The incoming president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has described how he had to use a disused bathroom as an office in his hospital due to a shortage of resources.

In his inaugural address at the IMO’s annual conference in Maynooth, Prof Trevor Duffy said that when he was appointed to a consultant post at Connolly Hospital in Dublin he travelled over a few weeks early with a car full of books and paper to put into his office.

However, he said he was quickly told in the hospital that there was no office.

“Undeterred I wandered around the hospital until I came across an old, disused bathroom which had the critically important attributes of a door and a lock. I recruited some friends of my father and together we painted and organised the office and effectively requisitioned it. I remain there today.”

Prof Duffy suggested that many doctors returning to Ireland have to face the problem of lack of basic resources.

“Sometimes ambition is almost frowned upon in Ireland but I think it’s really important that all of us in the health services remain ambitious for what we can achieve for ourselves and for our patients. It is what drives many of us to seek further training overseas,” he said.

“Unfortunately on return home we typically find ourselves working without the basic resources required to do our job. The stories of surgeons waiting for 12 months or more to get theatre time are legion. I have my own small example of this.”

Prof Duffy also said that the relationship over the last 30 years between the IMO and the HSE and its predecessors institutions had been robust. However, he said that more recently this relationship had become “almost dysfunctional”.

He said he would be happy to play a part in renewing and refreshing that relationship but that it must be on a basis of mutual respect and honesty.

“Those qualities of respect and honesty must be seen in how the HSE and the Department deal with us - not just in how we deal with them.”

Prof Duffy said that the manpower crisis which the IMO had warned about in 2011 when the Government introduced differential salary scales had come to pass.

“We were right when we warned the HSE that if they didn’t tackle the non-consultant hospital doctor crisis the situation would become critical and we would see an exodus of our brightest and best up and coming clinicians.”

“And, unfortunately, it is clear also in the manner in which the Government is conducting itself in respect of the new GP contract which it is trying to impose at the moment….when every objection, however reasonable…….is seen as something to be overcome rather than informed advice on a potential problem that should be listened to.”

Prof Duffy said that no more than the HSE, doctors did not have all the answers. However he said doctors had a particularly valuable experience and viewpoint because of our roles on the front lines and surely its not too much to ask that the HSE start to acknowledge that we are critical partners in the reform programme which we absolutely accept needs to happen”.