One junior doctor in the HSE last year received more than €150,000 in overtime payments.
According to records released through the Freedom of Information Act, 11 non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) received over €100,000 in overtime last year.
The figures reveal that a registrar working in the HSE South area — which includes Cork and Kerry — last year received the highest amount in overtime payments in the health service, receiving €153,250, with a specialist registrar in the area receiving €130,659.
Last night, chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s NCHD committee, Dr Mark Murphy, said the high payments “are proof of grossly illegal and ferocious work practices at play concerning NHCDs within the HSE”.
He said the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) prohibits doctors working more than 48 hours per week.
Dr Murphy said the top overtime payments to the doctors “represent 0.1% of the NCHDs across the country and these ‘outliers’ are working, in some cases, 110 hours per week.
“It is illegal and is not sustainable and I would have huge concerns about the fatigue levels amongst these doctors where in some cases they are working 36 hours straight through.”
Health Minister James Reilly confirmed that last January Ireland submitted to the European Commission a plan to meet the terms of the working directive relating to NCHDs within three years.
Dr Reilly said this would be done through the implementation of new work patterns for medical staff, the transfer of work undertaken by NCHDs to other grades, and the organisation of hospital services to support the working directive compliance.
He said: “These measures will be complemented by my plan to establish hospital groups as soon as possible, by the efficiencies being driven by the special delivery unit in association with the HSE’s national clinical programmes and by the ongoing changes in work practice being advanced under the public service agreement.”
However, Dr Murphy said yesterday the Government’s proposal and timeframe was “not good enough”.
He said: “It must be done as soon as possible. Governments had 15 years to do something about this.”
The average working hours of NCHDs is 62 hours per week.
In a statement explaining the top payments, the HSE state: “The majority of these overtime earners are registrars working in smaller sites where they may be on-call every second or third night and likewise every second or third weekend.
“While the intensity of the activity at these sites may not be sufficiently high to warrant additional NCHDs, as services are currently configured, these hours are required to maintain full 24-hour emergency services, seven days per week.”
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