This article is taken from today's Examiner. It is truly remarkable that this issue has taken so long to come to anyone's attention.
"Friday, March 13, 2009
EU to take up issue of junior doctors’ hours by Ann Cahill, Europe Correspondent
THE European Commission is to take up the issue of punishing hours worked by junior hospital doctors with the Government.
Doctors in training should not work more than 56 hours a week under current EU rules, but a report in December, by the Department of Health, found the 4,800 junior doctors regularly exceeding this, working shifts of 36 hours or longer and no hospital was fully complied with the law.
Dublin Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa referred this to the EU commission, whose job is to ensure states implement the laws.
The commission responded that they "viewed with concern the report and intend to make contact with the national authorities".
Mr De Rossa said: "This is a very significant development. It is the first indication that the Health Minister Mary Harney is facing the prospect of legal action at EU level, and ultimately EU fines, for refusing to abide by the EU health and safety rules on working time. Incredibly, there are still reports of junior doctors on duty for 36 hour shifts, and sometimes longer."
Dr John Morris, vice president of the Irish Medical Organisation, said non-consultant hospital doctors were the only grade in the health service that work on temporary contracts into their 40s and work shifts of 24, 56 and 72 hours without appropriate breaks. Hours are due to fall to 48 a week from the end of July.
Junior doctors are already in dispute with the HSE having voted overwhelmingly for action over proposed cuts in overtime and allowances. Talks in the Labour Relations Commission broke down when the HSE walked out yesterday."
I would like to draw attention to this particular phrase, which sort of cracks me up a bit. "Incredibly, there are still reports of junior doctors on duty for 36 hour shifts, and sometimes longer."
There are STILL reports of this, huh? Wow. That's weird. Considering that EVERY SINGLE HOSPITAL IN IRELAND OPERATES ON THE 32-36 HOUR SHIFT BASIS AS A MEANS OF STAFFING THEIR POORLY MANAGED SERVICES!
There is, currently, not ONE hospital in Ireland where this isn't the accepted and normal way of working for NCHDs. Weekends can be split into 26-30 hour shifts between two people IF management sanction this, or they can be a 56 hour straight marathon with no sleep and no scheduled meal breaks. Some even do from Friday morning to Monday morning working, an incredible 72 hour shift. Not week. SHIFT.
NCHDs have no choice in the matter as the overtime is MANDATORY, and it is worded that way in their poxy 6 month contracts that they remain on for years and years on end. When I was an intern I did 56 hour shifts at weekends. Once I was so ill with fatigue by the Monday that, alarmed at the state of me, they decided I should maybe not treat patients, and I was sent instead to do photocopying for the day.
End this madness. And give the patients a safe health service, and the doctors a health service they can provide care in, as opposed to exhausted and half hearted troubleshooting.