Non-consultant hospital doctors have warned industrial action is likely if there is no engagement by the HSE to address long-standing concerns about working conditions.
Non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs), who number 7,500, account for two-thirds of the medical workforce providing care to patients.
The results of a survey published by the Irish Medical Organisation NCHD committee on Monday showed 78 per cent said they were at “high risk” of burnout.
All NCHDs reported working beyond their contracted hours. And 96 per cent were required to work more than 48 hours per week, while long shifts were also a problem with 40 per cent having been required to work in excess of 24 hours in a single shift.
The survey respondents said 76 per cent of hospitals did not provide suitable rest breaks and 50 per cent of NCHDs experienced difficulties availing of annual leave.
John Cannon, chairman of the NCHD committee of the Irish Medical Organisation has warned that industrial action is likely in the absence of "urgent and serious" engagement by the Health Service Executive to address concerns about working conditions, safe hours and routine breaches of contract.
Dr Cannon described the mood of the organisation countrywide as “demoralised, frustrated and angry”.
What about patient safety?
The committee intends to ballot members to seek approval for industrial action up to and including strike action. This will occur “in the event that the HSE does not engage meaningfully to resolve the situation and implement much needed reform”.
The committee have indicated that to allow the current situation to continue would pose “a substantial and unacceptable risk to patient safety”. It is recommending members to vote in favour of industrial action and is campaigning to rally support for reform.
Dr Cannon warned that the NCHD crisis is feeding directly into the shortage of consultants in Irish health services.
“This is a crisis for patients and healthcare services. Patients are being seen by doctors who are exhausted, stressed and under pressure,” he said.
“At a time when we struggle to recruit desperately needed consultants, we are driving away the next generation who we need to fill those roles in the coming years. Today this is a crisis for our NCHDs, but it promises an even greater crisis for the wider health service if it is not addressed urgently.”