Just 4% of Irish medical graduates are on 2 year contracts
Fine Gael Cork Senator and the Party’s Seanad Spokesperson on Health, Colm Burke, today (Thursday) said the situation whereby Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHDs) in Pakistan are being offered two year contacts by the HSE to come to train in Ireland, when just 230 out of around 4,900 NCHDs in Ireland are on contracts of a similar duration, is unfair and needs clarification.
Senator Burke said the inequity of the system is further highlighted by the fact that more than 2,000 trainee doctors here have been given contracts of just six months.
“There are approximately 4,900 NCHDs employed in the Irish system at any one time. Figures made available to me recently, outline that an estimated 2,000, or 40%, of these are on contracts of just six months, despite the fact that many are engaged in structured two or three year training schemes. Just 230 NCHDs have agreed two year contracts, which is a paltry 4% of the total number of NCHDs who are engaged in training in Irish hospitals.
“Despite this, a Memorandum of Understanding for a pilot exchange programme has been agreed between the HSE and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan, which is due to commence this year. This will see doctors from Pakistan continuing their training here in Ireland with contracts for two years here on offer.
“By offering two year contracts to foreign doctors while refusing to do the same for other graduates appears to be discriminatory in the extreme. The uncertainty that six month contracts present for doctors is immense with new places of employment having to be secured twice a year. This is extremely unsettling and disruptive for trainees.
“Furthermore when an NCHD moves to a new employer, he/she may be forced to move to a new HSE payroll, as the HSE operates several payrolls: a fact that the Junior Minister, Kathleen Lynch TD, admitted to me under questioning is not ideal.
“NCHDs are the backbone of our healthcare system and make a substantial contribution to frontline care in this country. By not offering graduates here in Ireland employment contracts that match the duration of training, while doing so for trainee doctors from other countries is unfair and offensive. I would encourage the Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly TD, to reflect on this issue and to work towards putting a system in place that is reasonable and fair for all doctors.”
Tuesday 5th March 2013
Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and member of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, Colm Burke, has today (Tuesday) welcomed a commitment by the Director General Designate of the HSE Mr Tony O’Brien to reduce the average weekly hours and the number of shifts undertaken by NCHDs in 2013. Mr O’Brien expressed assurances that full implementation of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) would be secured by next year.
“The commitment comes ahead of today’s (Tuesday) meeting of the Health Committee, which the IMO and HSE are on my request due to attend, to discuss concerns which I have repeatedly raised about the HSE’s repeated failure to comply with the EWTD.
“Criticism of excessive working hours for NCHDs has been forthcoming from unions, the public, politicians, sectors of the media and from the doctors themselves about the current situation which is not only putting patient safety at risk, but is impacting severely on the lives and well-being of our hospital staff.
“As set out in the Directive, and in supporting Irish legislation, NCHDs should be working no more than a 48 hour week as and from the 1st August 2009. Anecdotal evidence suggests that very few junior doctors, if any, are actually working these hours.
“Of particular concern to the IMO is the fact that the HSE claims that the average working week of NCHDs amounts to 56 hours, which in itself contravenes the Directive. The IMO rightly asserts that the use of average hours is inappropriate as the EWTD applies to individual doctors and not NCHDs en masse.
“The Organisation suggests that 40% of NCHDs are working in excess of 61 hours per week, with 16% carrying out their on-site duties over a 71 hour working week. More than half (56%) of junior doctors are said to work longer than the maximum allowable 24 hour period, with most not being granted proper breaks and compensatory rest.
“In order to address this issue the HSE must firstly implement a system to accurately measure the working hours of NCHDs. A system of structured rotas, which will adequately resource our hospitals while ensuring compliance with the Directive, must then be put in place.
“It has been completely unjust to impose these levels of hardship on our medical staff, many of whom have felt forced to leave this country for better working conditions abroad. I will be requesting that representatives from the HSE today reiterate the commitment given by Mr O’Brien and outline their plans to achieving compliance with the Working Time Directive, to end the exploitation of Junior Doctors.”
Monday 18th February 2013
The Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Union Affairs of which I am a member has this launched a national debate on Ireland and the future of the European Union.
As part of this process, the Committee is inviting submissions from individual members of the public and organisations on the European Union and Ireland’s role in that Union.
The Committee intends to focus on the implications for Ireland of an evolving European Union, and will structure its work for the coming months on the following themes:
· Financial integration
· Budgetary integration
· Economic policy integration
· Democratic legitimacy and accountability, and political integration
· The United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU – implications for Ireland
Written submissions should be titled “Ireland and the future of the European Union” and be sent, preferably by email, to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to:
Joint Committee on European Union Affairs
The closing date for receipt of submissions is 29 March 2013. The Committee may decide to invite contributors to appear before it to discuss submissions in more detail. The Committee is currently liaising with practitioners, stakeholders and interested parties, and is expected to hold a series of sessions on this subject in the coming weeks. Read more and make a submission: http://bit.ly/xMg2nJ
Fine Gael Cork Senator, Colm Burke, has today (Thursday) said the new initiative introduced by the Department of Health and the Road Safety Authority which states, at the applicant’s request, the desire for organ donation will increase the number of donors and ultimately save lives.
“There is no doubt about the benefits of organ donation and the impact donation and transplantation have on saving lives. As was stated today in the Seanad the success of transplantation has, ironically, lead to organ shortages with the result that new and innovative ways of encouraging people to become donors need to be developed.
“The Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly has undertaken a number of new initiatives to highlight the importance of organ donation and to encourage take up by the public. Changes to the driving licence application form, which allow the applicant to have a code included on their licence which indicates their desire to become a donor, make it infinitely easier for people to make their wishes known.
“New driving licences that are being issued can now have the code 115 included on them, specifying the licence holder’s intentions to donate their organs in the event of their death. A similar proposal is being examined by the Department of Social Protection to include an organ donation code on Public Services Card, which will indicate likewise.
“It is often the case that people who express an interest in organ donation, recognising that even after their death their organs can help save lives, but do nothing about it in terms of getting and carrying a donation card. By making it easier for people to make their intentions know, through initiatives such as this, organ donation rates can be improved and more lives can be saved.
“It is the Government’s intention to introduce an opt-out system of organ donation, with a view to increasing the availability of organs for those who need them. This will, of course, require detailed discussions and a considerable amount of work which the Minister is working on.
“I welcome the co-operative approach which is being taken between the National Organ Donation and Transplantation Office and the Irish Donor Network, which is comprised of a number of individuals and organisations concerned with organ transplantation, including The Irish Kidney Association, The Irish Heart and Lung Transplant Association and Irish Eye Bank.
“By continuing to make the benefits of organ transplantation known and making it as easy as possible to become donors we can dramatically reduce the number of deaths that result from organ failure. The Minister is to be commended for his work in this area and I look forward to new developments that are coming down the tracks.”
Burke secures agreement for IMO, junior doctors and HSE to come before health Committee to address concerns
Fine Gael Cork Senator and member of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, Colm Burke, has called on the HSE to implement, without delay, the European Working Time Directive for Non Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHDs) so that patient safety can be maintained and the practice of junior doctors working excessively long shifts can be brought to an end.
“Concerns have been raised from a range of sectors in relation to the hours that NCHDs are having to work within our health service. Complaints have been forthcoming from unions, the public, politicians, sectors of the media and from the doctors themselves about the current situation which is not only putting patient safety at risk but is impacting severely on the lives and the well-being of our hospital staff.
“Last week at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, I secured agreement for the IMO, junior doctors and the HSE to come before the Committee so that representations from all sides can be heard and a satisfactory solution can be found to this situation.
“As set out in the Directive, and in supporting Irish legislation, NCHDs should be working no more than a 48 hour week as and from the 1st August 2009. Anecdotal evidence suggests that very few junior doctors, if any, are actually working so few hours.
“Of particular concern to the IMO is the fact that the HSE claims that the average working week of NCHDs amounts to 56 hours, which in itself contravenes the stipulations of the Directive. The IMO rightly asserts that the use of average hours is inappropriate as the EWTD applies to individual doctors and not NCHDs en masse.
“The Organisation suggests that 40% of NCHDs are working in excess of 61 hours per week, with 16% carrying out their on-site duties over a 71 hour working week. More than half (56%) of junior doctors are said to work longer than the maximum allowable 24 hour period with most not being granted proper breaks and compensatory rest.
“It is completely unjust to impose this level of hardship on our medical staff, many of whom feel they have no choice when it comes to their working hours. I have long been banging the drum about the standard of living that is on offer to NCHDs in Ireland, when compared to other countries such as Australia and New Zealand, and for the need to address the issues faced by them to ensure that we do not suffer a brain drain and lose our best to foreign shores.
“Our NCHDs provide an invaluable service and are the bedrock of our health service. I am calling on the HSE to enforce the EWTD without delay and to bring an end to the punitive arrangement that currently sees junior doctors being exploited in this way.”
Thursday 29th November
On Tuesday of this week I had the pleasure of hosting a visit by the members of the UCC Europa Society to Leinster House, who met and held a discussion with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on EU Affairs.
The Society, one the college’s newest, was established with the aim of increasing the promotion and awareness of European issues and culture, stating “It is neither a pro-European or anti-European society, but aims to be a forum where the facts on Europe can be presented in a clear, unbiased and understandable fashion.”
I have already spoken at one of the debates hosted by the Society regarding the Single Market and very much look forward to attending some future events.
Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and Seanad Spokesperson on Health Colm Burke voiced his support today (Thursday) for a call by the Medical Research Charities Group seeking the appointment of a full time Director of Research within the Health Service. Senator Burke was speaking following his attendance at the launch of the Group’s pre-budget submission.
The Medical Research Charities Group is an umbrella group of 31 medical research and patient support charities who have co-funded €60 million of medical research.
“The appointment of a full time Director of Research would demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that health research remains a key priority in the Health Service.
“The introduction of such a full time post would provide a focal point and thereby assist in improving the structures for medical research in the Health Service overall. By creating a culture of research within the Health Service better outcomes can be achieved for patients. The implementation of good practices and policies for clinical research within the health service would benefit greatly from such an appointment.
“A highly functioning research environment can provide objective and concrete data which is essential when determining cost savings initiatives, the reallocation of resources, access and quality of care issues. This data would greatly assist in the development of government health policy and ultimately drive better health outcomes for individuals.
“The commitment demonstrated by such an appointment would be beneficial in helping to retain high calibre health researchers. Irish graduates are highly sought internationally and being enticed abroad by large research initiatives. A well resourced and highly functioning research service would be an important factor in seeking to retain these graduates.”
Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator, Colm Burke, has called on the Houses of the Oireachtas to increase their level of scrutiny of European Affairs.
Senator Burke was speaking following his attendance at a conference entitled ‘Parliamentary Scrutiny of European Affairs’ at Westminster this week.
“The Lisbon Treaty included explicit democratic provisions to strengthen the role of the European Parliament and national parliaments in European matters. As a former member of the European Parliament, I have advocated, for some time now, that the Oireachtas makes greater use of these provisions in order to increase our participation in European affairs.
“The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty introduced an Early Warning Mechanism aimed at strengthening the direct involvement of national parliaments in EU-decision making processes. Unfortunately, Ireland to date has a disappointing record of using the mechanism.
“Seanad Éireann could play a significant role in the scrutiny of European affairs, owing to the significant powers conferred on it by Bunreacht na hÉireann and the Lisbon Treaty, which allow it to act independently of Dail Éireann. Routine provision should be made on the Seanad schedule to deal exclusively with European matters.
“I have spoken on this matter a number of times, most recently on the occasion of An Taoiseach’s address to the Seanad and have requested a debate on the issue from the Leader of the House during this term.”
Tuesday 6th November 2012
Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and Seanad Spokesperson on Health, Colm Burke, today (Tuesday) welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD, that the new National Children’s Hospital would be located at St James’s Hospital.
“Today’s announcement marks a very positive step in ensuring that the best clinical outcomes for sick children are met for generations to come.
“The decision to locate the new National Children’s Hospital at St James’s will ensure best international practice, resulting in an immediate tri-location site, owing to the proximity of the Coombe Women and Infants’ University Hospital to St. James’s. Over 98% of emergency transfers between hospitals on a tri-located site are between maternity and paediatric hospitals.
“The decision to choose St James’s provides immediate access to a 6.3 hectare site, which is highly accessible from primary and national transport routes. The site is presently serviced by a quality bus corridor and the Luas red line, with Heuston Station accessible by close connection.
“The St James’s site historically has a highly positive planning history. The lands form part of the Dublin City Council Development Plan (2011-2017) which zoned the area for institutional hospital use.
“Another crucial factor in determining the location was the need to limit disruption to the operation of clinical services during the construction phase. The size of the site at St James’s allows for construction of a separate building, without impacting on the delivery of services.
“Now that the decision has been made as to where the National Children’s Hospital is to be located it is important that the plans are drafted in a careful and expeditious manner and that every effort is made to have those plans brought through the planning process at an early date.
“It is essential that there is full consultation with the local community and with all of the stakeholders who will be directly involved in this development. Time is of the essence in the design, planning and the building of this facility. It will be to the benefit of children who deserve the best possible medical care in the most up to date and state of the art facility.”
Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and Seanad Spokesperson on Health, Colm Burke, has today (Wednesday) expressed his support for International World Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Day which takes place tomorrow (Thursday, 25th October).
“Ireland has one of the highest instances of individuals with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. People living with the disease, together with their families, have been supported by Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland (SBHI) since 1968.
“Spina Bifida is a permanently disabling condition that affects approximately 1 in every 1,000 Irish children. Hydrocephalus is a condition whereby there is too much cerebrospinal fluid in the cranium.
“SBHI is a voluntary organisation which provides information, support and advice to people with Spina Bifida and/or Hydrocephalus, as well as to their parents, siblings, and carers. SBHI also promotes social inclusion and equality for people with Spina Bifida and/or Hydrocephalus in Irish society.
“Amongst its services, SBHI provides family support, visiting individuals and/or families in their own home, in hospital, in school or in the work place, responding directly to their needs. Youth respite care services are also available.
“We can support and raise awareness of SNHI and the services provided by purchasing and wearing a Torc pin tomorrow October 25th. I encourage everyone to get involved.”