Health service and seasonal leave


Sir, – The Taoiseach needs to get real and practise what he preaches (“Doctors and nurses should not take ‘extended’ leave over the Christmas and new year period”, News, November 7th). Meanwhile those running this country in the Dáil took very “extended” Christmas and new year holidays in 2017, four weeks from December 15th to January 16th. Is that supposed to be leadership? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – The Taoiseach suggests doctors and nurses should not take holidays over the Christmas period and early January to alleviate the expected crises in Irish hospitals this coming winter. It is hard to imagine how asking overworked and underpaid healthcare professionals to work harder is going to solve any problems. On the other hand in the last eight years with Fine Gael in government we have seen a steady increase in attendances at emergency departments. We have seen waiting times across the board shoot up. We have seen the continuous loss of talented and well-trained doctors and nurses to greener hills and better functioning health services abroad.

Maybe the Taoiseach could dust off his stethoscope during his winter holidays and lend us a hand in the emergency department; that way he might finally be of some value to the health service. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I found it interesting that the Taoiseach is trying to curtail the holidays taken over the Christmas period by nursing and medical staff. Dáil Éireann is in session for 17 days between both December and January, with the January sessions starting back on the 15th, yet HSE staff are being told seven days (four of which are weekend days) off over the Christmas period is too much leave. Second, to suggest the overcrowding in hospitals as well as numbers on trolleys are due to doctors and nurses having a few days off is outrageously simplistic. Is it any wonder that both recruitment and retention are an ongoing issue in the HSE? – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – It is disappointing to see the Taoiseach “having a go” at doctors and nurses by suggesting that they shouldn’t take holidays at Christmas.

Virtually all planned hospital work ceases at Christmas, not because staff are lazy, but because nobody wants to be a patient at Christmas. I have never seen a patient opt for a major operation such as a hysterectomy or prostatectomy on Christmas Eve or on New Year’s Eve. Even semi-urgent cancer treatments are postponed by patients till after the Christmas break. As a doctor, Mr Varadkar should have seen how hard hospital staff work throughout the year so his comments surprise me. As Taoiseach he ought to be aware of the statistics that demonstrate the poor staffing of hospitals in Ireland compared to other European countries. Perhaps he could share with us the experience in his previous medical career that has left him with such a poor opinion of his medical and nursing colleagues. – Yours, etc,


(Retired medical



Co Wexford.