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Junior doctors vote 'overwhelmingly' in favour of industrial action over working conditions

The Irish Medical Organisation said it will now seek “urgent negotiations” with the Department of Health and HSE on the matter.

NON-CONSULTANT HOSPITAL doctors (NCHDs), formerly known as junior doctors, have voted in favour of industrial action due to a dispute over working conditions. 

In a statement, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said that NCHDs have voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of industrial action up to and including strike action, with over 97% of the votes in favour of the proposal, recommended by the NCHD Committee.

The IMO said the dispute focuses on unsafe and illegal working hours, not being paid for all hours worked, unsustainable costs associated with training and a failure by the HSE to ensure all NCHDs receive full entitlements to annual leave and study leave. 

The IMO said it will now communicate the ballot result to the Department of Health and the HSE and seek “urgent negotiations” to resolve the issues under dispute.

The union said if the Department and HSE are not prepared to seriously engage on resolving issues, it will issue 21 days’ notice of industrial action.

“This ballot result clearly demonstrates the determination of NCHDs and while any kind of strike action is extremely difficult for doctors, there may be no choice,” Dr John Cannon, Chair of the IMO NCHD Committee, said.

“If Government and the HSE really want to address these issues we are willing to talk with them. It is simply intolerable to treat NCHDs in this way.”

A survey published in April showed that 96% of NCHDs have been required to work over 48 hours a week – many on multiple occasions, while 40% of NCHDs have been required to work over 24 hours in one shift.

The survey, which was carried out by the IMO, also found that NCHDs are routinely not paid for all hours worked.

91% of NCHDs said they felt they have little or no control over their work life, while 78% said they were at “high-risk” of burnout. 70% said they were dissatisfied with their work-life balance.

“NCHDs are leaving Ireland in higher numbers than ever. That is a direct consequence of the manner in which the HSE and Department of Health treat them, and something must change so that our system is safer for doctors and patients,” Cannon said.

“Everyone including the Minister for Health agrees that current conditions for NCHDs are unacceptable, they have known this for a long time but now is the time to do something about it. ”

Attending the IMO’s Annual General Meeting last month, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the issues around working conditions experienced by NCHDs were “completely unacceptable”.

Donnelly said he was committed to “fundamental change and reform” and that he had written to the HSE asking it to engage with NCHDs on the matter. 

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for the HSE said: “The HSE is committed to early and constructive engagement with the IMO on the issues raised.

“The HSE remains hopeful it is possible to make process on a number of the areas of concern.”

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