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IMO consultant and NCHD members have voted in favour of industrial action. This is the first time that consultants and NCHDs have voted together for industrial action.
The final vote in the ballot was 94 per cent in favour of industrial action with 6 per cent opposed. In the absence of a resolution of this matter, the IMO expects that industrial action will take place early in the New Year.
The IMO’s key demand is an end to the “unjustifiable” pay inequality faced by new-entrant consultants.
Dr Matthew Sadlier, former President of the IMO and a member of its Consultants’ Committee, said: “We are deeply disappointed that the Government has forced doctors to take this action, but we have exhausted every other remaining option and all the while the state of our health service has steadily disintegrated under a Government that does not value the welfare of patients.
“This pay issue is the single biggest obstacle to the functioning of our health services and providing care to our patients, and any talk of reform is just spin until this has been resolved. We have always strongly advocated reform, but any reform must be on the basis of delivering better patient care and not simply suiting an election cycle of political ideologies.
“The message from doctors is clear: enough is enough. We do not want to strike but we cannot stand by any longer and watch as our health service is hollowed out and doctors are left to pick up the pieces yet again.
“This is an unprecedented step but also an unprecedented situation. Government policies have directly led to a situation whereby we have unacceptable trolley numbers and waiting lists, 540 empty consultant posts and doctors leaving the medical register in their thousands because they cannot cope with the stress of working in such an under-resourced environment.”
Dr Anthony O’Connor, a member of the IMO Consultants’ Committee, said: “Patient welfare is still our main priority, and as such we will not take industrial action over the Christmas and New Year period when our inadequate heath service will be buckling under the winter strain with too few doctors to treat patients.
“However, in the meantime we urge the Government to come to the table and engage with us so this action does not have to proceed and patients can be confident that the crisis in our health service is being addressed. Nobody wants to see hospitals close, but this is what will happen if the Government continues to sit on its hands and turn a blind eye to this devastating crisis.
“If the Government is serious about wide-ranging reform in the health service then it must address this crisis first, otherwise reform is doomed to failure.”
Dr Clive Kilgallen, Chairman of the IMO Consultants’ Committee, said: “We urgently need more doctors for better care. We already have the lowest number of specialists per capita in the EU and consultant staffing levels fall far below recommended ratios. It is outrageous that the Government has presided over this shortfall and is denying patients the care they need.”