MANY of the 12,000 planned operations and 3,000 clinic appointments will be cancelled in public hospitals across the country on Tuesday as junior doctors take to the picket line.
The row worsened as doctors, who are campaigning for an end to their gruelling working hours, hit back at comments by Health Minister James Reilly.
The minister said the HSE could not agree to a demand that the doctors be paid double, if they cannot be given time off in lieu, after working shifts of longer than 24 hours.
The doctors, who are part of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), said this would act as a financial penalty on hospitals which breach the shift limits.
The doctors are to cut manning levels to weekend cover on Tuesday as part of their campaign to end shifts of more than 24 hours and bring in a 48-hour week at the end of next year.
Mr Reilly, who sympathised with the doctors, asked them to return to talks at the Labour Relations Commission but said paying them extra – on top of the time and a quarter they get for working the additional hours – could not be sanctioned.
Instead the sanctions for breaches could involve switching authority to a different manager or giving formal consideration of the extent to which an individual manager or clinician should be held accountable.
Eric Young, assistant director for Industrial Relations at the IMO, added: "It's incredible that at this late stage the minister thinks these proposals will resolve matters – it is too little too late and our members have no confidence in the HSE or the minister's commitment to ending these working hours."
He insisted that doctors "want to work safe hours and they want to ensure that the HSE is penalised for breaking the law on working hours – otherwise any agreement is just another empty promise from the HSE and we have heard plenty of those in the past.
"Patients can see for themselves the stress our NCHD members are working under. They understand that a successful outcome to this campaign now will actually improve patient safety in the long run."