Non-consultant hospital doctors have begun a national campaign that could include taking industrial action to force a reduction in their “dangerously long” working hours.
The Irish Medical Organisation will next month ballot its non-consultant hospital doctors members on stepping up their campaign.
However, the IMO said strike action would be a last resort. There would be short stoppages initially and protests.
The ‘24-hour No More — Enough is Enough’ campaign is supported by around 2,000 non-consultant hospital doctors to highlight how they are regularly forced to work shifts of more than 24 hours at a time.
The IMO said the long hours are in breach of the doctors’ contracts and of the European Working Time Directive.
The chairman of the IMO’s non-consultant hospital doctors committee, John Donnellan, said the long hours worked by the doctors was impacting on patient care and safety.
While there were no definite issues that he was aware of, he said it was only a matter of time.
The IMO said it wants to see the HSE produce an immediate and credible plan for full compliance with the European directive.
Health Minister James Reilly has indicated to the European Commission that it is committed to fully implementing the directive by the end of 2014.
IMO assistant director of industrial relations, Eric Young, said the directive, which mandates a maximum 48-hour week, became effective in 2009.
Mr Young said this year many non-consultant hospital doctors were typically working shifts in excess of 38 hours and, in some cases, up to 100 hours a week. “It is unacceptable that patient and [non-consultant hospital doctors] safety is being put at risk by these dangerously long working hours,” he said.
He warned that the taxpayer was facing substantial fines from the EU over the lack of progress made by the Government on reducing working hours.
The ballot for industrial action takes place on Aug 8 and the result will be known towards the end of the month.
Ireland and Greece are the only EU countries that have not implemented the directive.
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