Junior doctor paid €167,000 in overtime


Overtime payments totalling €167,000 to a junior doctor in a hospital in the southeast “shouldn’t have happened”, according to the Health Service Executive.

HSE chief operating officer Laverne McGuinness described the sum as “extortionate” but said it was an “outlier” among overtime payments to junior doctors generally. The overtime was run up when the doctor was on leave and worked in a different hospital, Ms McGuinness told the Oireachtas health committee yesterday.

The HSE had made significant progress in reducing the working hours of junior doctors, she said, but smaller hospitals in remote locations sometimes were not able to support the larger rotas needed to achieve this objective.

24 continuous hours

The HSE aimed to ensure that no junior doctor had to work more than 24 continuous hours on site from June and that no doctor worked more than 68 hours in a week by the end of March 2013, she said.

It would require hospitals to identify non-medical staff in each hospital to lead delivery of key tasks such as the taking of blood sample and the siting of cannulas and catheters.

“We’re not happy we haven’t achieved the compliance with the 48-hour week but some work has been done.”

Earlier, the Irish Medical Organisation warned that patients could die as a result of the excessive working hours of junior hospital doctors.

Shirley Coulter, assistant director of industrial relations, predicted accidents would happen “with serious or fatal consequences” in hospitals as a result of the failure of the HSE to ensure junior doctors did not breach EU regulations against excessive working hours.

Junior doctors were working an average of 60-65 hours a week, not the 54 hours claimed by the HSE, she said.

The future of the health services was being jeopardised as more and more of its “best and brightest” young doctors turn their back on a chaotic health system that had no regard for their interests.

Training overseas

Non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) were increasingly pursuing shorter training periods under better conditions overseas and then staying there after training.

“Unless things change, there will be more NCHDs in our airports than in our hospitals,” Ms Coulter said.