Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said that while it is deeply regrettable that services at South Tipperary General Hospital will be affected by the one day nationwide strike of Non Consultant Hospital Doctors, he is very sympathetic to the NCHD’s because it was a wholly avoidable situation.
Deputy McGrath was speaking as more than 3,000 doctors are expected to take part in the action, described yesterday by the Irish Medical Organisation as a “dramatic escalation” of its long-running dispute over the issue of “dangerously long” working hours:
“While my thoughts are primarily with those patients who will be affected by the strike I am also conscious that this is a situation that need never have come about in the first place. The Government was told in 2009 by the European Commission that Ireland faced legal action unless it complied with the European Working Time Directive (EWTD), which stipulated that working hours be capped at 48 hours a week and yet both the Government and the HSE have informed us that this directive will not be complied with until 2014 at the earliest. It is in no one’s interests to have exhausted and over worked doctors staffing our hospitals and to that I end I would call on the HSE to get its act together and engage in a more constructive manner with the doctors.”
The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine said it supported the long overdue implementation of the European working time directive and said that most emergency departments were already in compliance with the directive.
“Essentially what we have witnessed to date is the collusion between the HSE and Government in maintaining illegal working hours. Both have known for years now that this was an issue that was not going to go away and yet we have still arrived at this impasse. I think it is also key to note that Outpatients appointments and elective surgeries in private hospitals will not be affected by this dispute because it seems they have clearly established working hour practices in place. The HSE and Minister Reilly must intervene immediately to ensure that the kind of safe working practices we are witnessing in private hospitals can be replicated in the public health system; failure to do so will only mean the continued institutionalisation of double standards when it comes to patient care,” concluded Deputy McGrath.