Health service bosses are putting patients at grave risk by forcing exhausted junior doctors to work “dangerous and illegal” shifts lasting up to 100 hours a week.
Officials from the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) repeated the long- held concern yesterday to politicians at an Oireachtas health committee meeting.
Despite representatives from the HSE insisting the two-decade-old issue was being addressed, IMO non- consultant hospital doctor committee chair Dr Mark Murphy said there was no obvious improvement.
Placing the blame at the feet of HSE management, his union colleague, Dr Shirley Coulter, said the situation put patients’ lives needlessly at risk.
“Without doubt, patient care is being jeopardised. It is clear an accident will happen as a result of this regime, and it could have dangerous, fatal consequences,” she said.
According to the IMO, while the HSE states junior doctors work an average of 54 hours per week, the average is 60-65 hours.
In some cases, Dr Coulter said, medics have been left with no option than to work 100 hours a week — and as long as 72 hours for a single shift — or leave vulnerable patients without the care they need.
Prof John Crown, an Independent senator who is a member of the committee, said politicians were just as much to blame for allowing the situation to unfold.
He said it was shocking such attention was given to the length of time TDs and senators had to stay up to vote on the bank debt deal instead of this issue.
“The most complicated thing they [politicians] had to do that night was push a green or red button. Nothing more complicated than that,” he said.
“But this [lengthy hours] is the everyday situation for our doctors. We’ve just used them as colossal band aids.”
The IMO also claimed almost one third of a junior doctor’s working time was spent on tasks that did not need the input of a doctor.
Senior HSE human resources officials said the organisation was attempting to address the concerns.
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