Ireland reach record number of patients waiting on hospital trolleys

THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO Patients wait in the hallway at a crowded emergency room.

With record numbers of patients on trolleys and over 750,000 patients on waiting lists, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said last week “enough is enough”.

The IMO issued ballots to members last week seeking a mandate for industrial action and are “very confident” the ballot will pass.

Consultant and Non-Consultant Hospital Doctor (NCHD) members of the IMO will be able to vote until Tuesday December 17th on whether or not to take industrial action in the new year.

The IMO’s key demands include an immediate increase in the number of Consultants employed, and an end to pay inequality based on when they were employed.

An IMO spokesperson said there will be no action until the end of January, to “allow hospitals to cope with what is, traditionally, the most difficult month of the year.”

The spokesperson said they hope strike action is not necessary, but that depends on Minister for Health, Simon Harris and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Government reports previously highlighted the unequal pay of Consultants as a factor in the recruitment and retention of Consultants and NCDH, but have yet to offer a serious proposal to end the pay discrimination.

The spokesperson said, “The IMO remains ready to constructively engage, but the ball is in the Government’s court.”

The payment inequality is partly due to a 30 per cent reduction in salary for new entrant Consultants from 2012.

“It’s Government policy that is putting patients at risk every day,” said the IMO spokesperson.” Our hospitals are at breaking point, the course of action that we are pursuing is Doctors saying, ‘enough is enough’.”

There was public outrage at the start of December, when a photo of 90-year-old Ann Talty leaning over a hospital trolley went viral on Twitter.

Talty, a retired shopkeeper, endured a two-day wait on a trolley in University Hospital Limerick according to the Independent. The hospital recorded a new high of 85 patients on trolleys.

Former President of the IMO, and member of its Consultants’ Committee, Dr Matthew Sadlier said Irish Doctors were “left with no choice” but to ballot, due to the Government’s refusal to address recruitment problems facing Ireland, and the “unjustifiable pay disparity” of Consultants.

“Talk of reform is a smoke screen for the crisis that is happening now,” he said in an IMO press release. “We have already lost one generation of doctors to emigration and we cannot let that happen again.”

Sarah Dobie 

Image Credit: Paul Chiasson