NCHD Working Hours- Dr Mark Murphy on Morning Ireland
Irish Medical Organisation

NCHD Working Hours- Dr Mark Murphy on Morning Ireland

RTE Radio 1- Morning Ireland  30th September 2011

Following a warning issued by the European Commission, Ireland is under notice to obey the European working time directive with respect to the lengthy hours worked by Ireland's non-consultant hospital doctors. The Commission has said that further infringement of this EU law will end in the European Court of Justice.

Dr. Mark Murphy, Chairman of the IMO NCHD Committee, spoke with Cathal MacCoille on Morning Ireland in relation to this and the ceasing of non-rostered overtime payments to junior doctors in Cork University Hospital (CUH).

The following is a transcript of the interview:

Cathal MacCoille:
A threat by the European Commission to take legal action against the Government on the issue of doctor’s working hours has been welcomed by the Irish Medical Organisation.  The IMO’s Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors are Chaired by Dr. Mark Murphy, who’s on the phone now.  Dr. Murphy, good morning.

Dr. Mark Murphy: (Chairman, IMO Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors)
Good morning Cathal.

Cathal MacCoille:
Now there is a crisis in relation to hospital doctors in Cork which we’ll come to in a moment, but first of all the fact this story has been around for years and years, we know the Hospital Doctors Working Directive is going to cause difficulty in Ireland, why do you welcome this threat?

Dr. Mark Murphy:
Well it doesn’t take much to understand why NCHDs are so disgruntled working in Ireland.  We’re an extremely disenfranchised workforce, and long working hours in Ireland, which is unique in the world, is one of the contributing factors to poor patient care. I suppose not only poor patient care, clearly fatigued doctors will not deliver appropriate care, but it means that doctors, and my friends and colleagues, suffer physically and mentally. We are at increased risk of needle stick injuries, we are at risk of road traffic accidents, and it must be remembered that the IMO has consistently, I suppose, questioned the HSE’s resolve over implementing the European Working Time Act over the past ten years, but we certainly welcome that the EU are trying to get our renegade working practises under control.

Cathal MacCoille:
From everything the Minister for Health, James Reilly, has said about this since he took office you seem to be pushing an open door, he recognises the need to do something about this.

Dr. Mark Murphy:
He does. I mean the HSE have known about his since 1997 and in 2004 when we were meant to have a fifty-six hour working week cap the HSE did nothing.  In 2009 when the forty-eight hour working week came in really nothing happened.  So the IMO has consistently been saying to the HSE that something should happen and I do, I share your scepticism, in a booming economy from 2000 to 2010 nothing happened, so I’d share your scepticism now that anything positive will come, but surely just from a management point of view, in a time when we’re having a manpower crisis, they must realise that the long working hours are a contributing factor to why NCHDs choose to work abroad.

Cathal MacCoille:
I’m not being sceptical, I’m just asking the question, the Minister has said he wants progress on this but that progress will involve, among other things, changes in working practises.

Dr. Mark Murphy:
Absolutely.

Cathal MacCoille:
More flexible work patterns.

Dr. Mark Murphy:
There are three broad, there are many things involved in health reform in terms of NCHDs that will contribute to improve patient care, a sustainable better health service.  The first is more consultants, the second is a reduction in the reliance of NCHDs and the third is a change in the roles that NCHDs perform.  Many NCHDs perform roles that really other healthcare staff should perform and they perform in other countries and I would welcome any reform.  The IMO is the chief advocate for reform in this country and I would welcome any reform, as you’re saying.

Cathal MacCoille:
Including more flexible work practises.

Dr. Mark Murphy:
Absolutely.  

Cathal MacCoille:
Okay, can I turn to the situation in Cork reported in the Irish Examiner this morning and confirmed to us by the HSE, and this is the HSE, the ordering a halt to overtime pay for doctors because of what a HSE Manager said is the extremely serious financial situation facing Cork University Hospital in particular and the HSE in the south generally.  What’s your reaction?

Dr. Mark Murphy:
I’m conscious of the economic strengths that the health service has but in a time again when CUH itself is having difficulty recruiting doctors this unilateral attack on our contract, we’re meant to get paid for every hour we work, and this unilateral attack on us, which they see as a vulnerable working group, it’s not only a completely, it highlights the blatant disregard that the HSE has for NCHDs, it highlights why we’re disenfranchised, but it also doesn’t make any management sense.  I mean in six month’s time we’re going to have another manpower crisis, they’re probably going to, the HSE are probably thinking of going to India and Pakistan again to recruit more doctors and Irish doctors are disenfranchised, I mean why would a doctor want to work in Ireland when they don’t get paid for hours...

Cathal MacCoille:
Just to concentrate on this specifically okay, they’re won’t be money for unrostered overtime, there will be time off in lieu the  HSE tell us, do you set any store by that and overall what’s going to be your reaction to this if it goes ahead?

Dr. Mark Murphy:
To the first part of the story, I mean it would have been, the management should have been in dialogue with the IMO, as the union representing doctors, but this is a completely unilateral course that they took.  If a doctor works hours they have to get paid, regardless of, we need compensatory time off any which the IMO, which we’re not receiving...

Cathal MacCoille:
Okay, well we know what they’re line is.  If that’s the line and if it’s implemented what will, industrially what will your reaction be, your members?

Dr. Mark Murphy:
Well we’re a trade union and there will always be recourse to industrial action but that should be down the list and that’s something that as a doctor ethically is a challenging issue, but it has to be remembered that I mean we are in crisis in terms of the structure of post graduate training, what’s happening our intellectual capital with the emigration of doctors and enough is enough and it’s time for not only all the doctors in Ireland but also the HSE to engage for a real change for the future for our health services and I would say that if senior management in the HSE want to control this renegade faction within the HSE this could be pre-emptive and no recourse would need to be taken.

Cathal MacCoille:
Okay.  Dr. Mark Murphy of the IMO, thank you very much.

 

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