Irish Medical Organisation

Working Conditions for Doctors are making Hospitals Dangerous for Patients, a Leading Psychiatrist said today

31st January 2013

Dr Anthony McCarthy, President of the College of Psychiatry of Ireland, has warned that doctor burnout threatens the health of both patients and doctors and needs to be stopped.

Supporting the campaign to end dangerously long working hours in Irish hospitals, Dr McCarthy said: “Too many mistakes happen because of tired and burnt out doctors”.

Dr McCarthy also said doctors are more likely to have mental health problems – such as depression, substance abuse and suicide – than the general population.
“The working conditions under which young doctors in Ireland labour is an enormously important compounding fact. It must be addressed – not just for the doctors’ sake but for their patients’ safety and welfare too”.
Dr McCarthy added the extent of mental health difficulties experienced by doctors “says much about the nature of the work we in the medical profession do – and possibly also the sensitivity of many who are attracted to such a caring profession”.
“Too many doctors, who in their hearts are kind and idealistic people, can come across as rude or arrogant, or as not listening to patients when, in fact, they just need some proper sleep and rest”
Endorsing Dr McCarthy’s comments, IMO Assistant Director of Industrial Relations Shirley Coulter said "16% of non-consultant hospital doctors are working more than 71 hours per week on site in hospitals."
“Excessive working hours are illegal, yet 56% of non-consultant hospital doctors are being forced to work shifts that are longer than the law permits,” said Ms Coulter.“These shifts are too long and they are dangerous for doctors and patients. Most of the doctors working them are not getting proper breaks and they are not getting rest times to make up for working excessive hours.”
Ms Coulter said the IMO is still challenging the Health Service Executive’s ongoing breach of an EU directive on working time and recently sought the intervention of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).
“Having formally requested a HIQA investigation into this issue in December 2012, the IMO welcomes the recent intervention of HIQA, which has sought details on the working hours of non-consultant hospital doctors from the HSE”.
“Governments and health officials routinely point to the overtime pay bill but seem far less concerned about the number of hours being worked by doctors to earn this overtime. The real issue is not overtime pay but outrageously long working hours that are illegal.” She said.

For further information contact:

Maria Murphy,
Director of Communications & Public Affairs, IMO
Tel: 01 6767 273 

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