Four out of five junior doctors say they are at risk of burnout and large numbers report mental-health issues as a result of poor working conditions, according to new findings to be published on Monday.
Research conducted by the Irish Medical Organisation among the country's 7,500 non-consultant hospital doctors reveals record low levels of job satisfaction and overwhelming support for industrial action over long working hours.
Upwards of 1,000 doctors are expected to attend an emergency online meeting convened by the NCHD committee of the IMO on Monday evening to address “flagrant contractual breaches” they say they face in their daily work.
Junior doctors, the workhorses of the hospital system, are becoming increasingly restive over what they say is the HSE’s failure to adhere to the European working time directive, which is supposed to limit excessively long working days and weeks.
Their dissatisfaction is compounded by post Covid-19 pandemic burnout, and the failure to fill hundreds of consultant posts. Some 837 consultant posts are not filled on a permanent basis, according to the latest figures.
Meanwhile, emigration to other English-language countries is rising, with almost 400 Irish doctors granted visas to work in Australia alone last year.
A formal ballot on industrial action has not yet been called but is likely follow tonight’s emergency meeting.
The HSE reports 98 per cent compliance in hospitals with the European directive, which limits the length of a doctor’s shift to 24 hours, and 84 per cent compliance with the 48-hour working week rule.
However, Dr John Cannon, chair of the NCHD committee said this was not the "lived experience" of junior doctors.
He said many doctors were burned out working in a system that was so “resource-poor” and that relied on “mind-blowingly bad” technology.
He said issues around deteriorating working conditions, which had been shelved “in the national interest” during the pandemic, were now driving deep dissatisfaction among doctors.
With many junior doctors regularly putting in 70-80 hour weeks, he said it was not possible for them to have any proper work-life balance. “Doctor need better workforce planning from the HSE and better working conditions. That’s the only way to prevent a brain drain as highly qualified staff move to other countries.”
The IMO says it will consider various steps to have the situation addressed, including the possibility of industrial action, if the HSE fails to address the issues raised by NCHDs.