JUNIOR doctors who worked nearly 100 hours last week joined a one-day strike for improved working hours today.
More than 3,000 non-consultant doctors around the country took to the streets in protest at having to work shifts in excess of 24 hours.
"It was a rough week because one person on our team was on leave, and a person on another team we cover for was on leave also, so the hours were long," Eoghan told the Herald.
"On Friday I started at 7am and worked through until 9.30am on Saturday morning. then I was in at 9am Sunday morning until around 11am on Monday," he explained.
"The worst part was Friday evening when it hits 7pm and the thought that I had to work through the night just hit me. Sometimes you just don't know if you can handle it," he added.
Marie explained that two interns help cover 350 surgical patients in the hospital.
"The site is 1km wide and you are going from one end to the other. I worked similar hours to Eoghan," she told the Herald.
"When you're on shifts like that it is just a cycle of work, sleep, work, sleep and there is no scope for having any sort of a life," Marie added.
"The morning after a night on call is the hardest. I have friends in the UK who work 12-hours shifts and they just can't believe how long we work here," she added.
Emergency and specialist registrar Ger O'Connor said the doctors are only looking for the European Working Time Directive to be implemented, which would do away with shifts in excess of 24 hours.
"This has to happen, for the safety of doctors as well as patients," he said.
"I never thought I'd see myself on a picket over this, but from Health Minister O'Reilly and the HSE's point of view it seems they just don't understand our concerns," he added.
"But we've come this far and we are determined to push this over the line. To stop now would mean going back to square-one," said Dr O'Connor.
With him on the picket line was Grainne O'Kane, chair of the Mater non-consultant hospital doctors committee, who is also 36 weeks pregnant.
"I hope that a one day strike will get the message across because we don't want to see more patients face cancellations or delays," she said.
"We do this with a heavy heart, but the European Working Time Directive has been in lace since 2004 and we are still in a situation where we are working hours that are way too long," Grainne explained.
As the doctors held their placards outside the Mater, patients and their relatives spoke of their support for them.
"They are working too long and we support them. Nobody should have to work the hours they do in any job, but especially as doctors," said John Howard from Finglas, as he assisted his wife Imelda who is suffering from cancer.
"We would be concerned if the strike escalated and affected more people, but we'll have to wait and see," he added.
Another cancer patient, who was arriving for chemotherapy, said the doctors on the wards were all hard working and their hours are too long.
"I support them for sure," said Marian Mooney from East Wall.
The Irish Medical Organisation has said it has had no contact from the HSE this morning in relation to its dispute on long working hours despite junior doctors being on picket lines outside hospitals.
It has now threatened a two-day strike next week or the prospect of rolling protests that could see services at hospitals threatened on a daily basis unless the issue is resolved.
"We have had no formal contact today. There are no meetings scheduled so far but we are available to talk because obviously from our point of view we want to resolve this issue," said Eric Young, assistant director of industrial relations with the IMO.
"We need to decide what our next step is. We will most likely look at the option of either a two-day strike or a rolling action. We will decide shortly," he added.
Mr Young explained that rolling action would involve a strike across the four HSE regions where a number of hospitals will have a strike for one day.
A two-day strike would be considered for as early as next week, he added.
"This action is unnecessary. It is not in the interest of doctors, it is certainly not in the interest of patients, and we call on the HSE to bring forward proposals to end unsafe working hours for doctors," said Mr Young.