Ireland’s largest teaching hospital has unveiled a groundbreaking charter for trainee doctors to improve their learning and working conditions.

The document, launched yesterday by Tony McNamara, the chief executive of the Cork University Hospital (CUH) Group, is believed to be the first of its kind developed by an Irish hospital.

He described it as a significant statement from the 800-bed CUH, where some 340 doctors from all over the world are in training, to address a “rather ambivalent attitude” historically towards junior doctors.

“We care about our staff and recognise we have obligations to ensure that, while training in our hospital, we must afford them every opportunity to get the very best training possible in an environment that treats each patient or staff member as a valued individual,” he said.

It was launched ahead of the presentation in Brussels today of new data on the HSE’s compliance with the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) for junior doctors.

Dr Colm Henry, the national clinical adviser for the HSE’s acute hospitals, said trainee doctors had not been fully respected or valued. But he pointed to enormous improvements in recent years, particularly in relation to the EWTD.

“The proportion of trainee doctors now complying with shifts of 24-hours or less is now at 96%, and the more important indicator, the 48-hour week, we are now at 80% compliance,” he said.

“But much more importantly is what’s not measurable — the quality of the relationship between hospital management, consultants and trainee doctors — has improved immeasurably.

“I have no doubt the improved results we present today is due to this new relationship, instead of an atmosphere where doctors in training were not always respected and valued.”

Dr Mike O’Connor, clinical director of CUH’s directorate of medicine, and who worked on the charter with Dr Liam Healy, also hailed the EWTD improvements.

“A lot of new doctors will never work more than a 13-hour shift and they’ll do that about once every seven or eight weeks, and predominantly, the rest of their days are an eight or a 10-hour day. And as a result, the quality of their work is much better,” he said.

Dr Healy said there is strong ambition to deliver on the charter to ultimately produce doctors who will provide better and safer healthcare to patients.

“In times past, in Irish medicine in general, we haven’t treated people as well as we should have — and there is a recognition of that,” he said.

“But we are recognising the mistakes of the past, we are trying to learn from them, and we’re doing our best to implement the changes to make sure those mistakes are not repeated.”


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