Simon Harris: Emergency departments open despite work stoppage threat

Minister warns against patients becoming ‘pawns’ in dispute over agency doctors’ pay

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said all emergency departments are open despite wildcat work stoppages threatened by some agency doctors.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said on Monday it had been advised a small number of medical staff employed through agencies - rather than the HSE - had indicated they may not turn up for their rostered duty this week.

The dispute centres on a new directive governing short-term/temporary medical agency placements that the HSE believes could generate savings of up to €53 million on agency staff costs over the next four years.

The HSE told The Irish Times it is “monitoring the situation”.


“All of our emergency departments right across the country are open today, and the health service is open for business and continuing to treat our patients,” Mr Harris said on Tuesday.

“It is absolutely vital that our patients do not become pawns in relation to a dispute over pay.”

The Minister acknowledged the pay difference between agency doctors and those directly employed could stand at 36 per cent but said the issue was about what the HSE pays the agency, and what fees the agency then paid its staff.

“We know that we have a situation in this country where the pay difference between agency staff and people working directly for the HSE is very large and quite unfair,” Mr Harris said.

“If we continue to have a situation where there is such a large pay differential between a locum and a person working for the HSE you can see how that problem arises.”

He urged those with dispute issues to use industrial relations mechanisms.

Doctors involved in the dispute who contacted some Ministers in recent days warned the work stoppages could hit emergency departments in hospitals in Navan, Naas, Limerick and Portlaoise, as well as one in Dublin.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times