Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has called on the Minister for Health to lead action to resolve the difficulties facing the medical workforce in the health service.
He said that non-consultant hospital doctors had many legitimate grievances which governments have been promising to address for 20 years, but that successive Ministers for Health and Taoisigh have failed to live up to their commitments.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“The Minister needs to lead change and make the public health service a better place to work for doctors.
“Both the Taoiseach, and later the Tánaiste, when they were Ministers for Health, committed and failed to improve conditions for NCHDs.
“In 2021 alone, NCHDs worked in excess of 2.8 million recorded overtime hours. This trend existed before the pandemic, with 2.5 million overtime hours worked in 2019, according to data I received from the HSE.
“That equates to almost eight additional hours of work for every NCHD every week all year, and there are still many claims of unpaid or unrecognised hours.
“Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors are the backbone of the medical workforce and the consultants of the near future.
“They are working in unacceptable conditions and have been for too long.
“It is long recognised by the political system that the HSE is in breach of the European Working Time Directive.
“HSE reports have shown compliance rise in recent years, but NCHDs have many issues with how their work and training hours are recorded.
“It is clear that NCHDs regularly work in excess of acceptable work hours between training and service provision, which puts the doctor and their patients at risk.
“Every year, hundreds of Irish doctors emigrate to Australia, Canada, America, and elsewhere to train and upskill.
“391 Irish doctors moved to Australia alone last year, when we are only training about 850 to work in the Irish system annually.
“Each and every one of them should have had a provisional job offer to entice them back, but even that would not be enough in many cases.
“Many do not return because of the working conditions they faced as an NCHD in the Irish system, even when we are crying out for applicants to fill vacant consultant posts.
“Doctors need action and not more promises from government.
“We need to resolve the consultant pay and contract issues, fill the vacant posts, and recruit and retain more doctors at every grade.
“We also need to look at how we can reduce demand on doctors and maximise use of the wide skillsets of many healthcare professionals, across nursing, physiotherapy, radiography, and potential new professions that can support doctors.
“The Minister needs to lead in addressing the many issues facing the medical workforce if the health service is to be able to retain doctors and attract them home from abroad.”
The overtime hours figures referenced above can be read here.