Hospitals strike could start next week
HSE, IMO to resume talks on Thursday as industrial action planned by junior doctors
A ballot of non-consultant hospital doctor members of the IMO is expected to produce a large majority in favour of industrial action. Photograph: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire
Major disruption of hospital services could start as early as next week after a meeting between junior doctors and the Health Service Executive failed to reach agreement yesterday on contingency plans in the event of industrial action.
The sides will meet again on Thursday but the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said it was disappointing health managers had not produced concrete proposals to address the issue of “illegal and dangerously long” working hours for junior doctors.
A ballot of non-consultant hospital doctor members of the IMO is expected to produce a large majority in favour of industrial action when the ballot ends next Monday. Doctors want the HSE to implement an EU directive limiting the maximum working week to 48 hours by the end of next year.
The IMO hasn’t said yet what level of industrial action it is planning, but it is likely to involve the withdrawal of cover across a range of hospital services, with only emergency care unaffected.
It said the failure to reach agreement on contingency plans at yesterday’s talks means these plans will need further clarification when the nature of the proposed industrial action is decided by the organisation after the ballot result is known next week.
Further evidence of the likelihood of major industrial action is evident from the IMO’s decision to set up a national strike committee to allow for liaison between the sides during a dispute.
IMO assistant director of industrial relations Eric Young warned the HSE against “further stalling tactics”. “After 10 years it is surely now time to address the problem once and for all. This is a problem for patients and doctors alike.”
He said it was disappointing no concrete proposals were put forward to move to compliance with the directive and in particular to put an immediate end to shifts in excess of 24 hours.
The HSE said the sides had agreed to meet later this week to discuss management’s proposed approach to progressing European working time directive compliance. The HSE continues to work towards compliance with the directive, a spokeswoman said.