Striking junior doctors will provide ‘skeleton staff’
STRIKE-threatening doctors have moved to ease fears over patient safety and offered to staff hospitals during a planned walk-out rosters with a bank holiday or weekend level.
With the stoppage planned for Wednesday September 25, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) revealed plans to leave a skeleton staff in all hospitals.
In a meeting with the Health Service Executive (HSE), chiefs medics also gave a commitment that oncology or dialysis services would not be affected by the strike.
The IMO said it wanted to minimise the impact on patients by rostering weekend or bank holiday staff levels for a hospital, plus one other junior doctor.
Non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHD) voted overwhelmingly in favour of the strike after failing to secure commitments from the HSE that the length of their working weeks would be cut in line with European rules.
The doctors have called for an immediate end to shifts exceeding 24 hours.
Eric Young, the IMO's assistant director industrial relations, said that far from seeking to put patient safety at risk, they wanted a better and safer environment for patients in the longer term.
"We are proposing to facilitate more NCHDs being available in the network than would normally be rostered by the HSE on any weekend/bank holiday," he said.
"But by failing to provide any proposals to resolve the issues, the HSE are abdicating their responsibilities to provide a safe working environment for doctors and a quality service to patients."
Further meetings to make contingency plans for the strike will take place at the end of this week.
Some 97% of the 1,000 doctors who voted on the issue of long working weeks came out in favour of strike action.
There are about 4,900 junior doctors in Irish hospitals.
The HSE said it had called on industrial relations mediators in the Labour Relations Commission to examine the strike threat.
It also claimed significant progress in many hospitals in recent months to meet targets of a maximum average working week of 68 hours and a maximum shift period of 24 hours.
It claimed that by the end of August, less than 5% of junior doctors NCHDs - 166 in total - were working more than 68 hours a week.
It also said the level of medics working longer than 24 hours in a shift had fallen from 58% of the total employed in March, to 34% in August.
The HSE said its biggest problems in cutting working hours and shift duration remained in small to medium-sized hospitals and those with low numbers of doctors rostered for surgery, anaesthetics, paediatrics and obstetrics.
"The HSE will continue to engage with the IMO in its efforts to work towards compliance with the European Working Time Directive," it said.