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A real light-bulb moment

Last month, NCHDs in anaesthetics at Cork University Hospital voted for strike action. This was due to the unilateral imposition of a new rate of pay for trainees on the College of Anaesthetists’ ‘run-through’ training scheme by the hospital. The figures are a little opaque, with both sides claiming different things, but it is estimated that this move will result in a drop in pay of around €10,000 per annum for the trainees.

At national level, this has been a dispute between the IMO and the HSE but the Cork hospital decided to go ahead and do it anyway. Then within days of the vote, CUH agreed to restore the contractual pay rate. A victory, yes, but in Drogheda, trainees who are not on the run-through scheme have been told that they too will be paid at the lower rate, with an imprimatur given from the General Manager of the office of the National Director of Human Resources.

The current National Director of Human Resources is a gentleman by the name of Ian Tegerdine. This was not a name I remembered from my many years of sitting across a table looking at HSE apparatchiks in Tom Johnson House so I Googled him. I was led to a website for his own company, which describes him as an experienced human resources director with over 10 years’ board-level director experience across the NHS and higher education sectors. The home page has four photographs of what I can only presume is Ian, which cycle through in a slideshow manner every few seconds.

The doctors have walked off the battlefield. They can’t recruit NCHDs and now they can’t recruit people to consultant jobs

One shows Ian smiling broadly while looking at an extremely large light-bulb, approximately 1.5 times the size of his head, which he is holding in his right hand. In his left hand, he holds a second, smaller bulb, more akin to a household device.

In the second photo he has shifted his focus to the second smaller bulb and looks considerably less happy. In the third snap, our hero is pointing at an imaginary whiteboard with his pen, patiently but pensively explaining what looks like something very complex altogether to an audience that probably doesn’t exist.

In photo 4, He gleefully holds his large comedy light-bulb above his head, having discarded the puny domestic version.

However, we can’t be too hard on Ian or on his bizarre choices of interior illumination, as a further Google search reveals he replaced that old friend of this column, Barry O’Brien, in November 2014.

Barry, as we know, came out with some absolute stonkers around the time of the national NCHD strike in September 2013, including: “If you are an NCHD going on strike to get better pay, there is no chance.” On mature reflection though, his finest hour was probably when, in attempting to dissuade NCHDs from going on strike, he said — both in the Oireachtas Health Committee and on RTÉ’s Prime Time programme — how disappointed he was that the strike was going ahead because “ they will be fully compliant with the EU working directive by December 2014 anyway”.

However, according to the most recent figures released by the Executive itself, at time of writing, in December 2014 compliance with an average 48-hour working week has actually fallen in recent months and stands at 60 per cent.

Barry has since moved on to University College Cork. We wish both parties well and extend our best wishes to Ian Tegerdine too. He’ll need them.

The carry-on with the run-through schemes in Cork and Drogheda, and the same messing with the living-out allowance, is deeply instructive. Regardless of who the names and faces are, the long war against doctors, especially NCHDs, continues. The lying, the messing, the spin — the petty, weasly interpreting of every deal and pronouncement from the LRC in ways that were never intended, in the most disadvantageous way possible to the doctor — continues. But in actual fact, the war is over.

The doctors have walked off the battlefield. They can’t recruit NCHDs, and now they can’t recruit people to consultant jobs and even GP lists that fellas would have been cutting throats for 10 years ago. Issues like pay and tax and resources undoubtedly play a role here but perhaps just as importantly, I discern a general reluctance to be involved with these people and work with them.

Trust has been completely destroyed and is likely beyond repair while this corporate entity exists in its current form. Maybe Ian and his comedy light-bulbs will help. When Thomas Edison was trying to invent the light-bulb, he said: “I have not failed, I have successfully identified 1,000 ways of making a light-bulb that don’t work.”

They must be nearly there at this stage, right?

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