Thousands of doctors in public hospitals to begin voting on strike action
IMO says its key demands are an end to a two-tier pay system and for the recruitment of more consultants for public hospitals
The IMO said it was looking at strike action on foot of “the Government’s continual failure to meaningfully engage on measures to address the recruitment and retention crisis among the medical profession”
Thousands of doctors of all grades working in public hospitals who are members of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) are to begin voting this week for strike action.
The IMO said it was seeking 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.
It said it was looking at strike action on foot of “the Government’s continual failure to meaningfully engage on measures to address the recruitment and retention crisis among the medical profession”.
The ballot will conclude on Tuesday, December 17th.
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 sees medical specialists appointed after October 2012 paid considerably less than their longer-serving colleagues.
It also wants an immediate increase in the number of consultants working in public hospitals.
Consultant psychiatrist and former IMO president Dr Matthew Sadlier said: “Doctors in Ireland are committed to providing the best care possible for patients, but we are left with no choice but to ballot for industrial action by a Government that still refuses to address the unprecedented consultant recruitment crisis. We have already lost one generation of doctors to emigration and we cannot let that happen again.”
Dr Anthony O’Connor, a member of the IMO consultants’ committee, said if the status quo was maintained hospitals around the country would be forced to once again ration patient care due to a lack of doctors.
Last week Minister for Health Simon Harris said the Government was going to have to pay hospital consultants a lot more money if it wanted to keep them working in the public health system.
Speaking in the Dáil, he said he wanted to pay consultants working in public hospitals more for doing public medicine.
Replying to a question from Róisín Shortall of the Social Democrats, he said he intended to sit down with representative bodies, the IMO and the Irish Hospital Consultants Association.
He said that other health service groups, including GPs, nurses and midwives, who wanted to talk about more money or reversal of austerity-era cuts had to do that alongside a programme of reform.
“Consultants are no different in that regard. I want to pay our consultants working in public hospitals more for doing public medicine. I want to look at how we can end the two-tier reality in that regard. I do not want to do anything that would worsen that divide.”