Doctors’ strike over long working hours
Sir, – Non-consultant hospital doctors will next week engage in industrial action due to the continued failure of the HSE to resolve the issue of excessive working hours which endanger the health of both patients and doctors in this country. A maximum shift length of 24 hours for NCHDs is the goal; the fact this is a compromise, and indeed a far longer maximum shift than that mandated by European law, should serve as an illustration of our current dire conditions.
In the decade since shorter shifts were demanded by law, doctors in this country have heard repeated assurances from the powers-that-be that every effort was being made to reduce our hours and make hospitals safer. Nothing has changed, except that many of our colleagues and classmates have emigrated in search of a working environment that allows them to provide the kind of care they envisage for their patients. There has never been any accountability or sanction for any hospital director or HSE administrator who allowed these illegal hours to happen on their watch. With great power comes absolutely no responsibility.
Barry O’Brien (director of human resources for the HSE), speaking on national radio, misrepresented the current position regarding the need for sanctions against hospitals who fail to comply with maximum shift lengths. He stated that NCHDs are seeking triple-time payments for hours in excess of 24 hours. This is not true. It is possible that this is the first industrial action in history seeking to reduce pay; through working fewer hours we will all take a pay cut and gladly so. If the HSE can implement what it promises it can, as it has promised before, then there will be no sanctions. In the meantime, it should refrain from misleading the public any further as to the nature of this dispute, as it is the public which ultimately loses from being cared for by doctors whose skills are hindered by exhaustion. – Yours, etc,
Dr IRWIN GILL,
Mount Anville Wood,
Kilmacud, Dublin 14.