Longer waiting times, backlogs in the health system and cancellations of operations have been predicted due to a ban on overtime now in place for junior doctors in Cork’s main hospital.
Non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) — also called junior doctors — have been written to by management at CUH.
In an email, seen by the Evening Echo, doctors have been told they must not work over the contracted 39-hours-a-week due to a ban on overtime that is in force from today.
The latest figures compiled by the HSE show junior doctors work more than 60 hours in an average week — and sometimes clock over 100 hours — while they are also unable to avail of adequate breaks.
The ban on overtime for nurses and doctors is in place for the rest of the year. All staff were told in an email that CUH is €10 million over budget for the end of July 2012 and that the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, will not be introducing a supplementary budget.
As a result, management was “under direct instruction from the HSE area manager to substantially reduce the CUH deficit in the remaining five months of 2012”.
Deputy Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman for health, said the cuts would inevitably impact on patient care.
He said: “Junior doctors along with nurses are the workhorses of the health sector — clearly any reduction in their hours will hit front-line services. The Minister has failed in his task to get the budget under control and to find the savings he had promised. We are now living with the ramifications of that.”
In the email, seen by the Evening Echo, it was stated that due to the ban on overtime all junior doctors must work 39 hours a week and partake in the rostered on-call system only, and are “required to go home post call”.
The hospital was “not in a position to pay for any additional hours beyond basic salary and rostered on call”.
“Management fully realises that these arrangements will require changes in how the services and NCHDs are organised in order to meet service requirements.
“In the interests of patient care it is advised that each NCHD discuss the new arrangements with their individual consultants,” the email said.