Hospital consultants may go on strike for the first time ever in Ireland.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has voted in favour of organising a ballot of its consultant and non-consultant hospital doctor (NCHD) members to undertake industrial action over pay issues.
While it is not clear what form this industrial action would take, it is expected it would be an escalating campaign, with doctors beginning with a strict work-to-rule. However, strike action has not been ruled out if demands are not met.
Hospital consultants have never taken strike action in Ireland before.
The IMO has two main demands. The first is an immediate end to the pay inequality faced by consultants, which is based on when they were appointed.
Consultants hired after October 2012 are paid 30% less than their colleagues hired before that date and the IMO has long insisted that this is having a major impact on recruitment and retention.
The second demand is for an immediate increase in the number of consultants employed in the health system, in line with recommended ratios.
The decision to hold a ballot was unanimously supported by a national meeting of IMO consultants and NCHD members on Wednesday night in Dublin.
Speaking after the meeting, Dr Clive Kilgallen, chairman of the IMO Consultants' Committee said that the results clearly show the "frustration and anger" that consultants and NCHDs feel towards the health service in 2019.
"Doctors never want to undertake industrial action, but this Government's lack of engagement leaves us with no option. Our health service has been crippled by this Government's appalling policy decisions, leaving patients suffering in badly under-staffed and under-resourced hospitals. We need meaningful reform now," he insisted.
According to former IMO president, Dr Matthew Sadlier, this current crisis is a direct result of the decision by the Government in 2012 to enforce a pay disparity of 30% based on when a consultant took up their position.
"The IMO has spent years warning the Government that this would have significant consequences, but regrettably it has not listened," he noted.
The IMO pointed out that just this week, 679 patients were left waiting on trolleys in one day, the highest daily figure recorded so far this year and the second highest daily figure ever recorded.
"We also currently have 770,000 patients on hospital waiting lists. How can the Government stand by doing nothing while this is happening? We must see urgent action on this issue," commented Dr Anthony O'Connor, a member of the IMO Consultants' Committee.
IMO consultant and NCHD members are to be balloted in the coming weeks.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.