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Column I'm no different to a human trafficker

I successfully lured a beautiful Eastern European blonde to Ireland to work. I, of course, had promised the world: happiness, love, professional dignity. She fell for it.

I HAVE OFTEN thought that I’m no different to a human trafficker. The guilt surrounding my actions has led me to tell my story.

The first step was difficult to organise. Moving house is said to be one of the most stressful things you can do; just try moving someone to another country.

I never feared getting caught, despite the Irish way with endless paperwork. I successfully got this beautiful Eastern European blonde into Ireland to work. I, of course, had promised the world: happiness, love, professional dignity. She fell for it.

She trusted me. I helped her to arrange the job. Her employer was expecting her. But not even I knew how horrific her working conditions would be.

She found the 5.15am wake-up tolerable enough but it was the lack of breaks that would start to wear down her and her colleagues. No breaks meant no food, no water, no toilet stop. She could never work quickly enough for a system that was never satisfied.

Some days she would leave for work just after 5:15am and work through that day, that night, and the next day. No breaks, poor nutrition, and certainly no sleep. (How can work be done if you are asleep?)

She kept going, mainly due to a mixture of dissipated morale and the teasing condescension of the big bosses with their mantra that ‘things will get better’, ‘just give it time’, they were ‘looking into it’.

She would be paid by the hour, they said, and she was. But there were some hours when she wouldn’t be paid. She should have worked faster, they said, an efficient worker wouldn’t have to work such long hours.

She needed help. But who would believe the story of an Eastern European labourer? There are people sleeping on the streets in this recession, wasn’t she lucky to come to this country and not to have suffered the same fate?

She was my girlfriend. And a very intelligent 1st year doctor who moved from Eastern Europe to be with me. I bear the awful guilt of luring her to some of the most inhumane working conditions in Europe: an Irish hospital. Home of the 36 hour shift.

We broke up shortly after. A year later I met a lovely, intelligent medical student from Germany, who is soon to qualify.

I don’t want to be like a human trafficker again. This time I am learning her language – and will be leaving Ireland to continue my career as a NCHD there.

Stop 36 hour shifts.

Dr Antoine Murray is a Medical Senior House Officer.

Read: Strike action now “inevitable” say junior doctors
Column: I am frustrated, I am committed, I am only human: I Am Your Doctor

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