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Ball in HSE court in row over junior doctors, says IMO

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Junior doctors during the one-day strike outside the Mater Hospital. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Junior doctors during the one-day strike outside the Mater Hospital. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Junior doctors during the one-day strike outside the Mater Hospital. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

THE Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said the ball is in the HSE's court if it wants to avoid further protests over junior doctors' working hours.

Talks were underway at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) today after the IMO agreed "to hear the views of the HSE".

Yesterday evening the LRC issued an invitation to the IMO to attend talks in relation to the dispute.

A spokesman for the IMO confirmed: "We will attend at the LRC with a view to hearing what the HSE has to say in respect of sanctions and other issues.

CAMPAIGN

"I think yesterday's Day of Action has demonstrated the huge level of public support for our campaign for safer hours for NCHDs and for patients. The ball is now in their (HSE) court if they wish to avoid an escalation of the dispute."

In the background the IMO is also discussing the next stage of industrial action, to be planned for next week if the HSE fails to agree meaningful sanctions for failing to cut doctors' shifts.

A letter to the IMO from the HSE has accepted the need for sanctions to prevent junior doctors being forced to work dangerously long periods.

More than 3,000 members of the IMO took to the picket lines yesterday in their day of industrial action over excessively long working hours.

The hospitals were reduced to Sunday levels of cover by the dispute.

Fifty-one hospitals were hit by the walkout, but Health Minister James Reilly said fewer than half of the original estimated 15,000 patients were affected by the strike.

The action was expected to cause the deferral of 12,000 outpatient appointments and 3,000 planned operations.

Dr Reilly said the impact on services was considerable but not as bad as had been predicted.

He said around 6,000 patients had been affected, and this was painful for them. He said the Government was very keen to see the matter resolved.

Eric Young, the Assistant Director of Industrial Relations at the IMO, said the organisations' members were appreciative of the goodwill and support which had been shown to its members.

He said members of the public "brought food and hot drinks to the picket lines".

Mr Young said a "realistic engagement by the HSE on outstanding issues was needed".

Around the country, junior doctors – who want an end to shifts of more than 24 hours and the introduction of a 48- hour week by the end of next year, as well as workable sanctions for hospitals that fail to operate the new rosters – were engaged in the industrial dispute.

On the picket lines at Cork University Hospital, Dr Deirdre Morley (29) from Cork and Dr Deirdre Fitzgerald (29) from Dublin warned that only urgent staff recruitment will ease the pressure which has reached breaking point for junior Irish hospital doctors.

Dr Morley pointed out: "No human being operates to normal efficiency after working for 34 hours.

fdillon@herald.ie


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