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In 2013, the HSE/IMO Labour Relations Commission set the limit, along with a system of fines for hospitals that failed to adhere to the measure, as a means of implementing the European Working Time Directive (EWTD).
Figures supplied to MI through Freedom of Information legislation show that in the first nine months of 2016, €2,125,626 in fines were imposed on hospitals for failing to comply with the maximum 24-hour shift.
At the end of September, the hospitals with the largest fines, in descending order, were: Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan (€262,503); Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin (€247,919); University Hospital Limerick (€243,747); Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda (€141,457); and Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar (€131,249).
Hospitals with no fines at all were: Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore; Naas General Hospital; St Luke’s, Rathgar; St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin; St Luke’s General Hospital, Kilkenny; Wexford General Hospital; South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Cork; Kerry University Hospital; South Tipperary General Hospital; Waterford University Hospital; and Sligo University Hospital.
In 2015, hospitals had to pay a total of €3.272 million for non-compliance with the agreement.
Mr Eric Young, Assistant Director of Industrial Relations with the IMO, told MI that sustained progress has been made in terms of implementing the EWTD and the 24-hour limit.
“There has been a good improvement overall,” according to Mr Young. “The matter of concern is that there are still some hospitals that are not fully compliant on 24 hours, which was discussed at the most recent national verification meeting and a number of options will be taken to improve that now.”
Compliance with the 24-hour limit stands at about 97 per cent, while the 48-hour week mandated by the EWTD is currently at 83 per cent.
Regarding the 48-hour week target, Mr Young said: “There are issues in some hospitals. There are specialties that are [finding it] very hard to become compliant because there is a shortage of doctors within those specialties.”
Overall, however, he said that significant progress has been made in complying with the objectives of the Directive.
The provisions of the EWTD in respect of NCHDs were transposed into Irish law in 2004.