Saturday 18 January 2020

Junior doctors to vote on new proposals

Demonstrators during a one-day strike in a dispute over working hours outside Mater Hospital in Dublin last week
Demonstrators during a one-day strike in a dispute over working hours outside Mater Hospital in Dublin last week
On the picket line, from left, Dr Roisin Colleran, Dr Gina McClelland and Dr Alexandra Schmitt during a one-day strike in a dispute over working hours outside Mater Hospital in Dublin last week
Junior Doctor Grainne O'Kane

JUNIOR doctors are preparing to vote on a set of proposals which would avert the threat of major disruption at the country’s hospitals.

The doctors took to the picket line last Tuesday for the first time in 25 years in protest over their long working hours.

However, the junior doctor committee of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has now recommended acceptance of new settlement proposals worked out with the Health Service Executive (HSE).

A key element of the proposed deal is the imposition of financial sanctions on hospitals which fail to comply with new rosters which limit their shifts to no more than 24 hours.

The doctors have demanded that hospitals stop rostering them for shifts of more than 24 hours which left them physically and mentally fatigued as well as a danger to patients.

Under the agreement part of the budget of hospitals which breach the rosters will be withheld until they can prove compliance.

This will mean that the pressure will be on hospitals to adhere to the new rosters and not lose funding permanently which would compromise services for patients.

The IMO is now to ballot its junior doctor members on the proposal. It has recommend acceptance of the deal and it means a repeat of last Tuesday week's strike by junior doctors is now unlikely.

The doctors were seeking an end to the  shifts of more than 24 hours and the introduction of a 48 hour week by the end of next year.

However the HSE was refusing to impose financial sanctions on the hospitals and the doctors had proposed that they be paid not only time and a quarter for hours worked more than 24 hours but that they should receive the normal hourly rate of pay if they did not get time off in lieu.

The HSE said this was in breach of public pay policy. The agreement was worked out during talks over the last week at the Labour Relations Commission.

Most hospitals will be able to bring in the new roster at the end of November but it will be January before others can limit the junior doctors' shifts to no more than 24 hours.

The doctors took to the picket line for the first time in twenty five years last Tuesday week as part of their campaign leading to the cancellation of around 7,000 patient appointments.

They were threatening rolling strikes or two day stoppages if a resolution of the dispute was not found - leading to a huge backlog of cancelled appointments for patients.

That is now expected to be averted and the 3,000 members of the IMO are likely to vote in favour of the deal with the assurance that it will be monitored with sanctions imposed on the hospitals which breach the rosters.

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

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