What sort of decisions do you make at 3am in the morning when you are in the 20th hour of your working day?
If you’re a Government TD on €92,000 plus a year, you might decide to engage in a little bit of inter-office horseplay by dragging one of your female colleagues onto your lap and having a bit of a friendly cuddle.
And if anyone takes offence, you can always blame it on the drink you had at the office bar and the fact that you had been up all night debating very important legislation, get the press office to issue a hastily written apology in the morning and skip home to bed feeling very important and grown up about yourself.
If you are a junior doctor on between €30,000 and €80,00 per year and you’re into your 20th hour, you are probably standing by a patient’s bed re-reading their chart for the 100th time, wondering how you are going to stay standing for the other 16 hours that you have been rostered on.
Hopefully then, although it isn’t a given, you can drag yourself home to bed and spend the day tossing and turning, wondering if you missed something or did something wrong, whether you’ll be able to live with the consequences or whether you are going to be pulled up before the Medical Council or dragged through the courts.
Strange that the former will get column inches in our papers and the latter only gets headlines when the doctor inevitably slips up and causes some damage.
Strange too that the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has taken until now to launch a major campaign to highlight “dangerously-long” working hours that junior doctors are routinely forced to work in Ireland, when the practise has been going on for longer than anyone cares to remember.
While we might hope that their new campaign, branded ‘24 No More’, will go some way towards addressing junior doctors’ working hour, it seems incredibly unlikely, seeing as it failed to be resolved when, apparently, we had some money at the height of the boom.
Doctors’ inability to heal themselves goes all the way back to the Bible (Luke 2.23, ‘Physician, heal thyself) but until doctors decide en masse that they will no longer work outside the terms of their contracts or the European Working Time Directive, it is unlikely that the Government or successive Governments will act, unless of course the Troika decide that it’s in their interest.