Friday 22 November 2019

Cut your 65 'rest days' by half, HSE tells hospital consultants

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

HOSPITAL consultants, who can claim up to three months off in "rest" days a year on top of their annual leave, stand to have it slashed under new demands, it emerged yesterday.

The consultants, who work the most onerous rosters -- where they are expected to be on-call for hospital emergencies at unsocial hours -- are currently entitled to five rest days in every four-week period.

This works out at 65 days off in one year while they also receive a separate payment for on-call duties.

But the Health Service Executive (HSE), which is in talks with consultants at the Labour Relations Commission, wants this reduced to two days per four-week period.

The cut in rest days, which the HSE says are currently "too generous", is among a range of demands from management.

The first intensive session of negotiations, which will affect 2,565 consultants, lasted four hours. It was adjourned yesterday afternoon until 10am this morning.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) were in discussions with their senior members until late last night in preparation for today's resumed negotiations.

The main aim of the talks is to get senior specialists to work different rosters so they are in the hospital as part of normal shifts in the evenings and weekends.

They also want some emergency departments to have a senior consultant on duty around the clock.

However, some doctors have referred to it as a "charter for slavery", with little understanding of the nature of their work.

The majority of patients arrive in emergency departments between 8am and 8pm and putting the senior doctor on a "graveyard shift" would not be productive they say.

A deadline of tomorrow evening has been set for the completion of the talks, although an extension is expected if progress is being made.

The HSE's head of human resources, Barry O'Brien, said yesterday that employers were frustrated at the resistance to change among the consultants at a time when other grades had engaged "positively" and delivered changes.

Health Minister James Reilly admitted many consultants have already changed their work practices but said it was essential the terms and conditions were formalised so that they applied to all specialists.

If agreement is not reached at the Labour Relations Commission the talks will be referred to the Labour Court which will issue binding findings.

The consultants' core pay is protected under the Croke Park Agreement but they will suffer a loss in income through a reduction in allowances under the proposals.

Irish Independent

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