Hospital doctors vote ‘overwhelmingly’ for strike action

‘We cannot stand by any longer and watch as our health service is hollowed out’

Any industrial action is unlikely to take place until mid- to late January. File photograph: Getty

Any industrial action is unlikely to take place until mid- to late January. File photograph: Getty

 

Hospital doctors including consultants and non-consultant personnel who are members of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) have voted “overwhelmingly” for strike action.

The Irish Medical Organisation said it now expected industrial action to get under way early in the new year in the absence of a resolution to the current dispute over pay and recruitment issues.

The IMO said 94 per cent of consultant and non-consultant doctor members voted for industrial action with 6 per cent opposed.

“This historic step comes because doctors can no longer tolerate the decimation of health services in Ireland and the life-threatening effect this is having on patients throughout the country,” said the IMO.

The organisation has sought a mandate from its 3,500 consultant and non-consultant hospital doctor members for industrial action, up to and including withdrawal of services, over pay and recruitment issues.

Any industrial action is unlikely to take place until mid- to late January. It could involve an escalating campaign commencing with hospital doctors working only to their strict contractual terms or refusing to provide out-patient clinics and potentially building up to a full strike.

The IMO said its key demands were an immediate end to the current two-tier pay system which means medical specialists appointed after October 2012 are paid considerably less than their longer-serving colleagues.

It also wants an immediate increase in the number of consultants working in public hospitals.

Last week Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government would offer to end the lower-pay system in place for hospital consultants appointed in recent years if they agreed to treat public patients only.

‘Patient care’

Former Irish Medical Organisation president and member of its consultant committee Dr Matthew Sadlier said on Tuesday: “We are deeply disappointed that the Government has forced doctors to take this action. But we have exhausted every other remaining option and all the while the state of our health service has steadily disintegrated under a Government that does not value the welfare of patients.

“This pay issue is the single biggest obstacle to the functioning of our health services and providing care to our patients and any talk of reform is just spin until this has been resolved. We have always strongly advocated reform, but any reform must be on the basis of delivering better patient care and not simply suiting an election cycle of political ideologies.

“The message from doctors is clear: enough is enough. We do not want to strike but we cannot stand by any longer and watch as our health service is hollowed out and doctors are left to pick up the pieces yet again.”