Junior doctors to hold national one-day strike

IMO says members will also call weekly strikes in each region from Monday, September 30th

Significant disruption of hospital services is likely to result from the one-day strike called by junior doctors later this month.

Outpatient appointments, elective surgery and other non-urgent areas are expected to be severely affected by the industrial action planned on Wednesday, September 25th, over the issue of long working hours.

Announcing plans for a protracted campaign of industrial action on the issue, the Irish Medical Organisation said non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) would also call a strike each week from Monday September 30th, in at least one hospital in each region in the country.

The formal notice of industrial action was submitted today following a special meeting of the council of the IMO. The organisation has promised emergency services will remain unaffected.

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The Health Service Executive is expected to seek further clarification from the IMO tomorrow on the planned industrial action when the two sides meet to discuss contingency plans for the health service during the strike. There was no comment from the HSE this evening in response to the IMO’s announcement of its strike plans.

The Chairman of the NCHD Committee, Dr John Donnellan, called on the HSE to produce a plan to resolve the working hours issue. "This has been an extremely difficult decision for doctors to make and we would not be in this position were it not for the inaction and prevarication of the Department of Health and the HSE. Even now, the Minister for Health could resolve this issue by directing his colleagues to tackle this issue once-and-for-all," he said in a statement.

The doctors are demanding an immediate end to shifts in excess of 24 hours and an agreement for a planned move to compliance with the European Working Time Directive (EWHD) by the end of 2014.

The a meeting of the IMO Council today passed two motions; one sanctioning industrial action and a special motion expressing “grave concern at the inaction of the HSE in the face of illegal and dangerously long working hours which has a detrimental effect on doctors and patients alike”.

The HSE has said it is taking measures to ensure that the directive is complied with by the end of next year but the IMO says it has failed to come up with detailed proposals to resolve the long-running grievance of junior doctors. While larger hospitals have managed to reduce the amount of long working by junior doctors, the HSE says there are still significant challenges in achieving compliance with the directive in smaller hospitals.

A ballot for industrial action produced a 97 per cent vote in favour among the 56 per cent of junior doctors who cast votes.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times