Reading the article ‘The Sound of Junior Doctors Cracking Under the Strain’ by Paul Cullen in today’s Irish Times leaves me astonished and incredulous that the European Union is not holding the Irish Government to account, through severe penalties and through holding individuals in positions of authority responsible, over the issue of hugely excessive, dangerous and health-damaging hours being worked by junior doctors in Irish hospitals. Apparently, not only have the hospital authorities, the Minister for Health and the Government treated European working time directives with contempt, they seem to have allowed, with full knowledge, a situation to exist where the junior doctors do not now even receive overtime payments for the hours that somehow they feel constrained to work. The medical profession itself surely has a lot to answer for too. How can a caring profession participate in the treatment of its own members in such a manner?
The solution to the problem would seem very simple on the face of it. Any person in authority at any level who knowingly allows a junior hospital doctor to exceed the working time directive while under their authority must be held responsible and the organisation responsible must be made to pay appropriately high penalties that would put an immediate end to the current improper and unjustifiable practices. Likewise, the Irish Government must be held to account by the European Community. The Irish Health and Safety Authority must also be held accountable, or empowered in this regard, whichever is necessary.
It is strange indeed that many of the best and brightest school leavers in Ireland do not seem deterred by the working conditions and lifestyle that await them some short years on, when they decide to undertake the long hard road of study and work to become doctors. Surely, caring should be at the heart of any caring profession.