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At a meeting between the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the HSE, the organisation received a commitment from the HSE National Director of HR that all hours worked by NCHDs will be paid for in line with NCHD Contract.

These talks took place on Monday (8th January) to discuss difficulties experienced by NCHDs in securing their contractual overtime payments emerged after recent moves by Connolly Hospital, and ongoing problems in University Hospital Limerick.

The Consultant Committee of the IMO pledged full support to NCHDs ahead of the meeting following instructions issued by Connolly Hospital that interns will not be paid for hours worked after 5pm and all other NCHDs will now have to complete a myriad of forms to get paid.

Following the talks, a clarifying memo from Connolly Hospital will be issued and the longstanding overtime problems in University Hospital Limerick will apparently be resolved in line with contract provisions.

Regarding ongoing engagement between the IMO and the HSE, it has been agreed that monthly meetings will take place between both parties to identify and address NCHD contractual issues and other working arrangements.

Commenting after the meeting Dr Paddy Hillery, Chair of IMO NCHD Committee welcomed the progress made in Monday’s meeting, expressing his hope that the HSE will ensure that all hospital managers adhere to the terms of the nationally agreed contracts.

“For too long NCHDs have been exploited at hospital level and the IMO have had to step in to ensure they get paid their basic contractual entitlements.  In the case of Limerick NCHDs have had to undertake industrial action in the past just to get paid their overtime, yet the practice continues. This is totally unacceptable, national agreements must mean what they say”.

Dr Hillery also highlighted the important of treating NCHDs in a professional manner, just like any other employee, given the recruitment and retention crisis in our health services.

He stated: “The increasing number of NCHDs who leave Ireland to work in systems abroad where they are valued and treated with respect should be a matter of grave concern to the HSE.  We hope that the new engagement process between IMO and HSE will ensure that blatant attempts to breach contracts become a thing of the past.

“NCHDs want to spend their time caring for patients not filling out forms or chasing up HR departments to get paid their salary entitlements”.

Dr. Peadar Gilligan, IMO Vice President and Chairman of its Consultant Committee said that the Consultants “fully supported” NCHDs on this issue.

Dr. Gilligan said that the move by Connolly Hospital demonstrated that the hospital management were “out of touch” with the realities of life in a hospital.

He continued: “Patient care must be the priority and while management may be counting the wage bill, doctors caring for patients should not be forced to down tools as the clock strikes 5pm.

“This is the real world on a busy hospital ward when interns and other NCHDs are routinely expected to complete whatever tasks they are doing whether their formal hours are ending or not.

“And of course if that requires them to stay working longer, they must be paid for that work.  NCHDs should not be disadvantaged in terms of pay if they are required to work to deliver essential patient care. The reason we have overtime is because we need to provide care for patients and we do not have enough doctors in the system to deliver that care”.

Dr. Gilligan said that the issue was as critical for Consultants.  He said: “Consultants operate within teams and they should not be coerced by hospital management to reduce those teams on the basis of saving overtime – clinical decisions are made at any time of the day and do not stop at 5pm – there is a patient care issue here.  Nor can Consultants or NCHDs, who are already working in a difficult environment, be asked to spend more time on filling out forms and explanations for overtime – such decisions are made on the basis of clinical need and patient demand”.