Managers breaching new rules on doctor hours 'will be relieved'

Minister says 7,400 patients affected by strike

Picket lines outside the Mater hospital in Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Picket lines outside the Mater hospital in Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


Minister for Health James Reilly has said that hospital managers who breach rules on working hours for non-consultant doctors would be relieved of command.

He said that he did not want to see any sanctions that were to be imposed applied to hospitals as this would hurt patients, nor did he want to create a perverse incentive for doctors to work even longer by tripling their pay for every hour worked after 24.

Instead he said he wanted to see sanctions applied to managers who failed to deliver on the limits for working hours for non-consultant doctors. Dr Reilly urged non-consultant doctors who staged a one-day strike at hospitals countrywide yesterday, to return to the negotiating table.

Dr Reilly said the only difference between the parties seemed to be in relation to the sanctions that would apply if the new restrictions on working hours for non-consultant doctors were breached. The HSE was prepared to discuss sanctions, he said.

It is expected that the Labour Relations Commission will intervene again in the dispute today. Sources said it was likely to issue an invitation to the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which represents non-consultant hospital doctors, and health service management to attend new talks.

Last week the IMO declined to take part in further talks.Options that the IMO could examine include a further stoppage next week for one or two days .

Dr Reilly said that about 7,400 patients had been affected by the strike. These patients either had elective – non-urgent – procedures deferred or appointments at outpatient clinics postponed.

The Minister said that these appointments would be rearranged as quickly as possible.

Eric Young, assistant director of industrial relations at the IMO, said the strike had enormous support from non-consultant hospital doctors across the country. “Picket lines at hospitals up and down the country were full of non-consultant hospital doctors . . . Our members are united and strong and determined to see this campaign through to a successful conclusion.”

Mr Young said the IMO would consider how to escalate the dispute in the absence of progress with the HSE.