Junior doctors expected to vote for strike
Industrial action would hit hospital clinics and elective work in first phase
The IMO says the ballot is a major escalation of its “24 No More” campaign which aims to put an end to junuior doctors routinely working shifts of more than 24 hours at a time
Hospitals, clinics and elective work could be cancelled nationwide as early as next month if a planned strike by junior doctors goes ahead, the Irish Medical Organisation has warned.
A ballot of almost 2,000 junior doctors which began yesterday is expected to produce a big majority in favour of industrial action.
The IMO said a rolling campaign of industrial action would start if there was a majority in favour when votes were counted at the start of next month.
While clinics would be withdrawn and elective work stopped, the organisation claimed hospital services would not be affected in the first phase of industrial action and doctors would be available in the “routine way” at weekends and on call.
The dispute centres on the Government’s failure to comply with the European working time directive in hospitals by ending what the IMO says are “dangerously long” working hours for junior doctors.
The Health Service Executive has said it plans to deal with the long-running issue by ensuring compliance by the end of next year but doctors say previous commitments have not been complied with.
The IMO says the ballot is a major escalation of its “24 No More” campaign which aims to put an end to non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) routinely working shifts of more than 24 hours at a time.
“We are at a crisis point in the future of the Irish health service,” said IMO assistant director of industrial relations Eric Young. “This circle of illegal and dangerous working hours has to be broken.
“It is not acceptable that the HSE continues to blatantly breach the law of the land and to think that they can do so with impunity. The HSE and the Irish Government have talked for years about fixing this appalling situation but it is clear that they will only do it if they are forced to.”
The HSE said yesterday it expected a report within weeks from the national implementation group it has established to ensure compliance with the directive. The group has visited every hospital in the State.
In a recent assessment provided to Independent TD Patrick Nulty, the HSE warned of “very significant challenges” to the health service posed by implementing the directive, hence the delay.
While progress had been made towards compliance in large hospitals such as Galway University Hospital and St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin, there were significant challenges in small to medium-sized hospitals such as Portlaoise and Tralee, which have low numbers of doctors on rotas in surgery, anaesthetics, paediatrics and obstetrics.
The HSE said that while all hospitals submitted action plans, many required significant revisions because of a lack of detail.
The directive requires that NCHDs work no more than 48 hours a week on average, receive breaks of 30 minutes every six hours and receive 11 hours of rest each 24 hours.