Junior doctors vote overwhelmingly to strike

Industrial action in hospitals likely within weeks after 97 per cent vote by NCHDs

Nurse Elaine Mary Houlihan has admitted to billing a Nurse on Call agency for work amounting to ¤20,400 while also being paid by Cork University Hospital.
Photograph: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire

Nurse Elaine Mary Houlihan has admitted to billing a Nurse on Call agency for work amounting to ¤20,400 while also being paid by Cork University Hospital. Photograph: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire

Mon, Sep 2, 2013, 18:05

Junior doctors have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action over their campaign to reduce “dangerously long” working hours.

Some 97 per cent of the 1,000 non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) who voted on the proposal favoured industrial action, according to the result of the ballot released by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) this evening. Some 56 per cent of junior doctors voted in the postal ballot.

It said a special meeting of the organisation’s NCHD committee would take place tomorrow to decide on the next steps in their campaign. A meeting of the IMO Council will also be held tomorrow at which formal approval for the campaign of industrial action will be sought.

Eric Young, the IMO’s assistant director of industrial relations, described the ballot result as unambiguous.

“Doctors are worried and angry. The concerns which they highlighted about the danger posed to hospital patients and to themselves continue to be ignored and there is now a strong appetite to step up the campaign to force the HSE and the Department of Health to do what everyone knows must be done - implement the European Working Time Directive and stop the dangerous and cruel exploitation of NCHDs in Irish hospitals.”

Mr Young criticised Minister for Health James Reilly, who has said he sympathises with the plight of NCHDs.

“When you read his comments in support of NCHDs, you’d think he was still president of the IMO. But he’s the Minister for Health now and he can fix this chaotic situation with the stroke of a pen, but he won’t do it.”

The IMO and the HSE have agreed to meet on Wednesday in relation to contingency plans for industrial action. Major disruption to hospital services is expected in the event of industrial action, with only emergency services certain to be unaffected. The IMO is expected to give three weeks’ notice of any action.

The junior doctors are seeking an immediate end to shifts in excess of 24 hours and agreement for a planned move to compliance with the European directive by the end of next year.