Junior doc strike hits services

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Widespread disruption to hospital services is being caused by today's one-day strike by junior doctors being held in protest at excessive working hours, according to the IMO.

Speaking from the picket line at Dublin's Mater Hospital this morning, IMO Assistant Industrial Relations Director Eric Young said the strike was extensive and there were pickets across the whole acute hospital system.

"We are delighted with the turnout and the level of support we are getting."

The IMO says significant pickets have been placed at all the major hospitals in Dublin and across the country.

Mr Young told irishhealth.com that there was a significant level of disruption - hospitals were working on a Sunday-roster only basis so with extra senior registrars available for emergencies. All elective (planned) services and clinics had been suspended.

He said emergency departments were working on a Sunday basis, so it was a scaled down service. However, emergency departments, from what we have heard, were reporting reduced activity today. "Some patients seem to be staying away, or are going to their GP."

Asked if there was any basis for the IMO to return to talks with the HSE on the hours issue, Mr Young said: "the difficulty is we have been negotiated out."

"We have talked about this issue with the HSE ad nauseam. Ultimately, the HSE knows what it has to do to resolve this issue, and we are awaiting a response from the HSE."

The main sticking points in the dispute have been been lack of agreement on how hospitals who breach working time limits would be sanctioned, and the IMO's reported mistrust of the HSE.

Asked about how the issue of the IMO saying it cannot trust the HSE can be resolved, Mr Young said the HSE didn't trust itself.

He said if the HSE was satisfied that the level of compliance they would achieve with their proposals for sanctions on hospitals that breach shift limits, there would be no issue with implementing sanctions.

The IMO said today that so far there had been no contact from the HSE on reviving talks to resolve the dispute.

In recent days, the IMO has said there is no basis at present for a resumption of talks.

IMO junior doctor leader Dr John Donnellan claimed today that it was the HSE that was responsible for today's withdrawal of services.

If the dispute remains unresolved, it may be escalated next week into a two-day national strike or rolling strikes on a regional basis.

Speaking from the picket line, Anthony O'Connor, a junior doctor at the Mater, said junior doctors regretted any inconvenience to patients caused by the strike.

Asked if safety of patients could be guaranteed, for example, in emergency services, during the strike, Dr O'Connor queried whether patient safety could be guaranteed as it stood in a system where some doctors were working in excess of 100 hours per week.

"In the long term if you have safe working conditions for hospital doctors, that is going to benefit patients in hospitals every day of the year. So while it is regrettable that anyone would be inconvenienced, what we need is a safe pattern of working for doctors".

He said the HSE had already had many years to resolve this issue, and it would now have to make some serious moves in order to settle the dispute.

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