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Irish Medical Organisation

Recruitment embargo in HSE 'inconceivable' and more doctors needed, IMO to tell politicians

Politicians will be told how hospital doctors and consultants are leaving work feeling “demoralised and frustrated”.

TDS AND SENATORS will today be told it is “almost impossible” for doctors to deliver safe care in a timely manner in the public health service because of a lack of investment. 

Representatives from the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which represents doctors in Ireland, will appear before the Oireachtas health committee this morning to discuss the employment of consultants and doctors in public hospitals. 

In its opening statement, seen by The Journal, the organisation delivers a scathing and highly critical assessment of the state of public hospitals in Ireland. 

The organisation criticises the recruitment embargo currently in place in the HSE. 

In the opening statement, the IMO says it is “ironic” to be speaking about employment issues for consultants and non-consultant hospital doctors seven months into a recruitment embargo.

It continues:

It is inconceivable that such an embargo is in place at a time when we need more doctors not less and at a time when there is a global shortage of doctors.”

Politicians will be told that as a result of the recruitment embargo, there has been an increase in illegal and unsafe working hours with 83% of non-consultant hospital doctors routinely working more than 48 hours per week.

The IMO also highlights in its opening statement that the day before the recruitment freeze was announced, the HSE advised the IMO that it would be targeting the recruitment of up to 800 additional non-consultant hospital doctors to “bring working hours to legal and safe levels”.

Politicians will be told that 68% of non-consultant hospital doctors are “regularly” working more than 10 consecutive days while 77% are pressurised by their employer to work extra shifts.

The IMO will note that strike action by non-consultant hospital doctors was averted in 2022, but by “almost every” metric the agreement put in place at the time is not being implemented in full and emigration of doctors is continuing to increase.

“Non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHD) are our future consultants yet 75% of NCHDs do not feel valued, respected or supported by their employer,” politicians will hear.
The IMO adds:

Doctors go into work each day with the objective of doing the job for which they are trained and doing their very best for the patients they treat. Unfortunately the system in which they work does not enable them to meet that objective and in many cases actually imposes obstacles that stops them – ultimately this has negative consequences for both patients and doctors.

The organisation also says the “consistent narrative” of record levels of public health budgets and the additional numbers employed in the health service “masks the reality” of the demands in the health service and the “deficits in funding for over a decade”.

It adds that the health service has not matched population growth in terms of physical capacity and increasing the workforce.

“The mantra of doing more with less or the call to healthcare staff to ‘do better’ in the absence of appropriate support is both insulting and demoralising,” Politicians will hear.

Consultants shortage 

The IMO will also tell Oireachtas members that although the number of consultants employed by the HSE has increased, it still falls “far below” the numbers required for a consultant delivered service.

In some specialities, including psychiatry and many surgical specialities, the number of consultants employed is up to 50% below the recommended levels, the IMO says.

It adds that this results in significant waiting lists.

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