The time has come. After ten years of campaigning, reports left on shelves, legal battles and arguments, the Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors will be balloted for industrial action in relation to their exuberant working hours tomorrow, Thursday.
This is not something we have chosen to do lightly. We have fought, shouted and have had fruitless meetings with our employer, the HSE, for our working hours for the past ten years. We are exasperated and exhausted. Meanwhile the majority of NCHDs are still working 70+ hours per week.
Although our ‘24 No More’ campaign is specific for our working hours, the ballot will be used to vent our anger and frustration at a system and employer that exploit us in many ways than just our hours.
The constant non payment of hours worked (most recently in GUH), the disregard for any consideration of a family life for an NCHD, the non clinical tasks which reduce our time for medical practice. Our list goes on.
This is the start of a revolution in our profession.
It is well known the NCHDs, propping up our faltering health service, are a key back bone to the system. It is also well known that these NCHDs work unearthly hours and are often so tired, our patient’s safety and our safety is at risk. Unfortunately, the second fact is often ignored or swept under the carpet, addressed with the unintentional insult, “You get well paid for it” or, “It was like that in the olden days.”
The talented and educated doctors are voting with their passports; being headhunted from the modern slavery system we have outgrown, to other modern countries, with dream offers of 48 hours working week, training included and, dare I say, actual time for family and social activities. Our colleagues who have emigrated to these countries verify that this dream is an actual reality.
So as our employer and government ignore our pleas and society at times label us as “unpatriotic” as we jump the sinking ship to another system, I ask, how can the NCHDs be blamed for wanting better working conditions when all our ten years of efforts have, so far, been in vain?
There have been local battles won in regional hospitals. This is purely as a result of NCHDs speaking out and re-constructing rosters that accommodate a reduction in hours to a maximum of 24 hours on call.
Again, it is up to us to do yet another member of HSE’s job. Our national director of Human Resources, Mr Barry O’Brien, has been so wonderful to give us a commitment, through the Oireachtas, that he will reduce our hours to a maximum of 68 hours per week. I hope he forgives us for not rejoicing at this marvellous offer. He simply has to do better.
This is our chance to stand up for our colleagues who are facing into another 36 hour call as you read this, our friends who are suffering in silence as a result of the mistakes made by these 36 hour calls or suffering mental illness due to the copious workload, constant moving and strenuous hours.
Our action is for the doctor you see when you attend the hospital who has reached breaking point and feels like a failure as the 92 hour week has caused them to cry in the bathroom with tiredness.
We value your support so much. A support that ensures you as our patient has a fully alert doctor treating you, in your vulnerable health. A support that also ensures our hours and conditions do not jeopardise our physical and mental health.