Hospital threatens to withhold overtime

A Cork hospital where overtime payments to junior doctors are in the order of €1m a month has warned it will not pay unrostered overtime unless specific details of extra hours worked are outlined.

A row over the number of forms that have to be filled when claiming for unrostered overtime at Cork University Hospital has threatened to lead to a strike — although yesterday, its clinical director said it is in the process of being sorted out.

Richard Greene said he believed progress was being made in resolving the row, which arose when junior doctors were told they could no longer include payment claims for unrostered overtime in their timesheets. Instead they would have to fill out the unrostered overtime details on a separate form.

The junior doctors were given this instruction in December, but the matter came to a head in January when some non-consultant hospital doctors had overtime sheets returned to them because they included claims for unrostered overtime.

Prof Greene said the additional timesheet for unrostered overtime payments was necessary because the hospital “had to be able to stand over the hours it paid for”.

The new form was “a mechanism by which we can do that”, he said.

Previously, when claiming for unrostered overtime, non-consultant hospital doctors may have simply used the word “busy” as an explanation for extra hours worked, Prof Greene said, but management felt reasons given needed to be more specific.

For example, doctors were sometimes required to stay on in the event of an emergency such as cardiac arrest, or to help out with patient transport details. Where they did stay on, the reason needed to be signed off on by a consultant or the clinical director. Prof Greene said junior doctors had 24 hours in which to secure the required approval.

“The request to have it pre-approved doesn’t mean they absolutely have to have it, it can be done in the next 24 hours,” Prof Greene said.

Where junior doctors failed to be specific enough about their reasons for claiming unrostered overtime, Prof Greene said there “might have to be a discussion about it”.

“It seems to be annoying people that they have to fill out a different piece of paper,” Prof Greene said.

He said the hospital had to try and stay within budget and that currently, overtime payments to CUH’s 290 junior doctors (both rostered and unrostered) were close to €1m a month.

A report in the Sunday Business Post said junior doctors had given management a month to resolve the timesheet issue or they would ballot for industrial action, up to and including strike action, on Mar 29.

The Irish Medical Organisation, which represents some of the junior doctors, was unavailable for comment yesterday.


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