Thursday, 29 April 2021
Department of Health
144. To ask the Minister for Health if the European Working Time Directive figures reported by the HSE are accurate and represent the experience of non-consultant hospital doctors working on the frontline during Covid-19. [22518/21]
Figures for EWTD compliance with the maximum 48 hour working week and with a maximum 24-hour shift improved significantly in the years following the LRC Agreement with the IMO in 2013. The figures have remained consistently high for the past year notwithstanding the impact of COVID-19 and the pressures encountered by our healthcare system in continuing service provision in the challenging circumstances brought about by pandemic. Aggregated data for January 2021 shows 87% compliance with the average working week of 48 hours (averaged over the roster period) and 98% compliance with the maximum 24 hour shift agreed with the IMO.
It is acknowledged that COVID has created difficulties in relation to extended working hours for NCHDs and other staff from time to time and that particular individual experiences would not be reflected in the national returns circulated by the HSE to stakeholders, including the Department. However, these returns include data in respect of each NCHD cohort, Interns, SHO's, Registrars and Senior/Specialist Registrars and for each acute hospital. Particular sites that have lesser levels of compliance can be identified and corrective action taken. It is also noted that the HSE has continued to increase the NCHD workforce over the past 12 months and this supports compliance. Between end March 2020 and end March 2020 overall numbers increased significantly from 6,757 to 7,444 (wte's). Within this figure Intern numbers increased from 724 to 967 as part of the response to the pandemic. Higher Intern numbers are now to be recruited on an ongoing basis to support future workforce planning requirements. This should impact positively on the working hours of all Interns.