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Hospital conditions here are 'third world'

YOUNG doctors are being driven out of Ireland as the health system is driving them towards nervous breakdowns, it was claimed today.

Experts say that bullying and physical fatigue are widespread, while conditions in Iran and Saudi Arabia are much better.

Dozens of newly qualified doctors are being forced to work 36-hour shifts straight due to the major shortage of frontline staff, the Herald has learned.

Two senior doctors have today spoken out about their fears that the enormous workload will impact on the physical and mental health of their junior counterparts.

Consultant Dr Altaf Naqvi has told of his fears that junior doctors will suffer "nervous breakdowns" due to the conditions in hospitals across the country.

Dr Naqvi -- who has worked in our health system for almost 30 years -- has for the past few months been privately contacting junior doctors to gauge their views of the Irish health system.

His findings, revealed in the Herald today, paint a shocking picture of Irish hospitals.

Junior doctors who spoke to Dr Naqvi said:

•They felt they were being discriminated against for specialist positions.

•They are looking to leave the country as don't feel they have a future in Ireland.

•They are sometimes required to tend to seven times more patients than they can manage.

•Many are struggling to cope with the stress and some have suffered nervous breakdowns.

Speaking to the Herald today, Mr Naqvi warned that morale among young doctors -- both Irish and from overseas -- is at "rock bottom".

"I have worked in other countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia but conditions are far worse here," he said.

"Doctors -- both national and from overseas -- are on the verge of nervous breakdowns, things are at crisis point," he added.

Limerick-based Dr Naqvi said he is speaking out as others are "too afraid to do so".

"I'm listening to junior doctors. The Irish are saying -- we are leaving, why would we stay here when we can work in hospitals in Canada or Australia. They are so stressed. Doctors in hospitals here, both Irish and non-national, are on the verge of nervous breakdowns, things are at crisis point.

"I have worked in Iran but doctors are treated much worse here. There is bullying. There is discrimination. Morale is at rock bottom."

He added: "This country is losing its best and brightest doctors. The Irish health system will soon hit a point where doctors do not want to work here anymore -- it is in crisis already but unless there is a change in direction things will just hit rock bottom."

Dr Naqvi's warning comes as the Irish Medical Organisation said that junior doctors were being forced to work 36-hour shifts.

The admission was made by leading medical expert Dr Mark Murphy, who warned that the long shifts are having a "detrimental impact" on doctors' physical and mental condition.

"Our organisation is extremely concerned about the tremendous amount of pressure on junior doctors. We have witnessed a large number working 36 hours straight.

"But there's little point in us keep making these statements. The HSE and the Department of Health has to act. At our upcoming AGM, we are calling on both bodies to agree to carrying out a formal occupational health analysis of every single NCHD [junior doctor] in Ireland."

The HSE has unable to provide a comment in time for going to press.