Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 February 2005

4:00 pm

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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Question 7: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she had discussions with the Health Service Executive to consider changing the date of the changeover of NCHDs to a time that is less likely to put patients at risk; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4261/05]

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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Question 105: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by a senior accident and emergency consultant to the HSE at the risks for patients arising from the total change of NCHD staff occurring at 1 January each year and on weekend days; the steps she is taking to address these concerns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4239/05]

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Progressive Democrats)
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I propose to take QuestionsNos. 7 and 105 together.

I am informed by the Health Service Executive employer representative division that it has been in discussion with the Irish Medical Organisation over the past number of years in an effort to reach agreement on new changeover dates for non-consultant hospital doctors. To date, the IMO has been unable to confirm agreement to alternative changeover dates.

Securing agreement with the IMO on this critical issue will continue to be a priority for the HSEERD. In this regard, employer representatives will seek to bring finality to this issue as part of wider negotiations with the IMO on a revised contract for NCHDs. It has been agreed that these negotiations will recommence under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission on 16 March 2005.

Photo of Liam TwomeyLiam Twomey (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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It is important we move on that because that time of year, especially 1 January, is an incredibly dangerous time. January sees the maximum number of patients on trolleys. It is also when doctors and nurses experience the greatest chance of being sick themselves. We should move the changeover date to 1 February, as was done in the UK. I hope the Minister succeeds in moving on that fairly quickly because it is very serious.

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Progressive Democrats)
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I agree with the Deputy. In any event 1 January is a bank holiday. It is not an appropriate day to start a new job, either from the employer's or the doctor's point of view. I hope we can reach agreement and that we will not have to act unilaterally on this issue. There is also the issue of July and the rotation situation in the UK. Both dates need to be changed. If we move to 1 February that would move the other to 1 August, which is the same date as in the UK. There may be issues around people applying for both, but the current date of 1 January is unsatisfactory and should be changed.