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Minister ‘committed’ to ‘fundamental reform’ on NCHD issues

By Reporter - 28th May 2022

The IMO will communicate the ballot result to the Department of Health and HSE and seek urgent negotiations

Current NCHD working hours and conditions are “not acceptable”, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has told today’s IMO AGM. He said he is “committed to fundamental change and reform”.

According to the Minister, he had written to the HSE “asking that they engage with you” and had been assured “they will work collaboratively with the Irish Medical Organisation to address these issues,” Minister Donnelly told the meeting.

He said he believed “quick progress” could be made on a number of issues.

For example, the Minister said funding has been provided to Hospital Groups to support education and training, and health and wellbeing projects for NCHDs. An additional €600,000 is being allocated to provide improvements to on-site NCHD facilities in areas such as on-call facilities, out of hours catering, lockers and residences.

Minister Donnelly added that a pilot programme for a network of Clinical Education Leads at site level will be rolled out in July to support NCHDs.

He also referred to “a programme of work” beginning with the postgraduate training bodies to actively identify more job sharing posts that can be accessed by trainees.

“I have asked my Department and the HSE to address concerns raised about geographic rotations and engage with the training bodies. We should try, where possible, to reduce the number of geographic moves required.

“I have also asked the HSE and Department to find solutions to the huge problem created by emergency tax being levied on NCHDs.”

Minister Donnelly said “ongoing engagement with the IMO will be central to advances in the NCHD career pathways and I’m looking forward to this”.

Earlier at the meeting, the IMO unanimously passed an emergency resolution in support of NCHDs.  

NCHDs are currently balloting on taking industrial action, up to and including strike action, in support of their campaign on unsafe working hours and conditions, and breaches of contract.  The ballot will close on 9 June.

The emergency resolution passed at the AGM today states: “This AGM, on behalf of all members, fully supports our NCHDs and their #standingUP4NCHDs campaign and ballot for industrial action.  The unsafe and illegal working hours, huge financial burdens and levels of burnout and stress faced by NCHDs will no longer be tolerated.

“We call on Government and the HSE to recognise and seriously address the challenges and inequities faced by our colleagues who are the consultants, GPs, public and community health doctors of the future.”

Speaking upon the passing of the motion, NCHD committee Chair Dr John Cannon said unless the HSE and Government seriously engaged with the IMO, there will be no alternative but to take industrial action. 

“We as doctors want to treat and help patients but our current working conditions are actually unsafe for the very patients we are trying to deliver care to.  Taking industrial action is not an easy decision and we hope that it does not come to that, but it is entirely in the hands of the HSE and Government.”

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