IMO warns of further hospital strikes

Doctors say there will be more action if HSE fails to engage on long working hours

More than 3,000 non-consultant hospital doctors are expected to take part in the action, described yesterday by the IMO as a “dramatic escalation” of its long-running dispute over the issue of “dangerously long” working hours.

More than 3,000 non-consultant hospital doctors are expected to take part in the action, described yesterday by the IMO as a “dramatic escalation” of its long-running dispute over the issue of “dangerously long” working hours.

Tue, Oct 8, 2013, 01:01

The Irish Medical Organisation has warned of further hospital strikes to follow today’s industrial action unless the HSE engages seriously on the issue of long working hours.

About 12,000 outpatient appointments and 3,000 operations have been cancelled because of today’s one-day strike, which starts at 7am and runs until midnight in 51 hospitals around the country.

The organisation, which represents doctors, is providing the equivalent of Sunday levels of staffing, with one additional on-call registrar for intensive care units. Staff will provide transplant, dialysis and palliative care services and will attend for patients with chemotherapy and radiotherapy “which cannot be deferred”. They will also support any unforeseen major incident.

‘Dramatic escalation’

More than 3,000 non-consultant hospital doctors are expected to take part in the action, described yesterday by the IMO as a “dramatic escalation” of its long-running dispute over the issue of “dangerously long” working hours.

Both the IMO and the HSE spent yesterday making preparations for the strike and there were no late moves to return to the negotiating table. Sinn Féin spokesman on health Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin called on Minister for Health James Reilly to make an 11th-hour intervention as a former IMO president and avert the industrial action.

Dr Reilly has said there was little between the sides after negotiations, where differences centred on the sanctions that would be imposed where hospitals failed to limit maximum shifts to 24 hours.

Patient safety

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association said it supported junior colleagues “on the urgent need to reduce their working hours” in the interest of patient safety and doctor welfare.

Emergency department doctors said staffing levels today are unlikely to be adequate to meet demand and delays for patients were inevitable. “It is important for the public to realise that while emergencies will continue to be managed during any industrial action, there will be disruption to services and delays for patients,” the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine said.

The association said it supported the long overdue implementation of the European working time directive, which sets limits on the hours of work of medical staff. Most emergency departments were already in compliance with the directive.

Eric Young, IMO assistant director of industrial relations, warned further days of action might follow if the HSE continued to ignore the continuing breach of European directives. “The HSE has relied on the goodwill and professionalism of our members to continue working illegal working hours. They can no longer take our members for granted. They must demonstrate a commitment to engaging with our members in a serious and credible way or there will be further disruptions ahead.”