PUBLIC hospitals face the threat of strike action next Tuesday after a failure to resolve the dispute with junior doctors over their long working hours.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has revived its notice of strike action which will bring major disruption to surgery and clinics.
The doctors are demanding an end to shifts of more than 24 hours and a guarantee that the 48-hour week will be in place at the end of next year.
Proposals put forward by the HSE at the Labour Relations Commission led to peace talks and a suspension of strike action which had been scheduled to take place last Wednesday.
However, these unravelled after the junior doctors' committee of the union said they lacked clarity and failed to provide the guarantees they needed, including sanctions for hospitals which breach the hours.
If the strike goes ahead many areas of hospitals, particularly outside Dublin, will have to curtail services because they must operate at severely reduced levels of cover by junior doctors who will only work their reduced weekend rosters. The doctors will continue to work as normal in cancer and dialysis departments.
Eric Young, assistant director of industrial relations at the IMO, said: "The HSE had failed to demonstrate to the doctors that it was committed to addressing this crisis in a real and meaningful way.
"Ultimately the HSE wants us to trust them to resolve this issue but they have repeatedly failed to honour commitments on this issue going back a decade so its just not realistic to expect us to take them on trust on this occasion."
He rejected claims by the HSE that it engaged in "nearly a month of engagement" with the union. This is an "an abuse of language", he said.
"Attending meetings with no preparation to show and no ideas to offer to a decade-old dispute does not count as engagement.
"The HSE has wasted a decade on this issue and lost the trust of a generation of doctors and they have now wasted another month with the same indifferent approach."
Barry O'Brien, the HSE's head of industrial relations, said he was surprised to receive the strike notice.
"Significant progress has been achieved at the LRC and this was subsequently confirmed and acknowledged by the IMO following that engagement."