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NCHDs attending the National Specialty Meeting of the NCHD Committee of the IMO

Blowing the whistle against disrespect

The IMO (and the IHCA) are no longer alone in trying to tackle the general lack of common decency shown to NCHDs in the health service, Lloyd Mudiwa writes

There is a sense arising from some of the interactions taking place between the State and trainee doctors in the last couple of years, that junior medics aren’t as valued by politicians as much as they would like to be.

The Irish Medical Organisation’s (IMO’s) wish-list for non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) in its just-ended AGM 2018 was pretty straightforward.

In fairness to the IMO, and the other medical representative bodies, they have all largely managed to clearly convey their hopes and dreams over the years to politicians, and perhaps more importantly, to the public — and yes, even to us, the media. One wonders, therefore, where the problem lies.

But to avoid any doubt, I will try to surmise my own understanding of the IMO’s wishes just as concisely and clearly. The Organisation wishes, “to have the Health Service Executive (HSE) employer desist from consistently breaching NCHDs’ working contractual terms and conditions, regardless of their lowly position in the health service.”

With this aspiration in mind, many conference attendees took interest in a session at the National Specialty Meeting of the NCHD Committee at the IMO AGM, on HSE HR values for NCHDs, which was addressed by HSE National Director of HR, Rosarii Mannion.

Granted, for some senior managers in University Hospital Limerick who feel hard done by, the actions of Senior House Officer in his second year of Basic Specialist Training, Dr Edward McMonagle might stand out more. Dr McMonagle took the opportunity to be a whistleblower against poor practices in the hospital, reporting directly to Mannion (see page one).

Mannion was accompanied by the new HSE National Development and Training Programme Director Prof Frank Murray, whose empathy for the challenges faced by trainee doctors was clear for all to see. She said that given the issues around overtime pay, incorrect and delayed salary payments, burnout, bullying and harassment, and contractual issues raised in the conference, it would be easy to become cynical or negative. But that wouldn’t improve things or correct them for both staff and patients.

“My philosophy is simple, and some might even say, naïve,” she told the doctors.

“If we get it right for staff, we get it right for patients and service users.”

But her reliance on a strong evidence-base (research from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Royal College of Physicians of Ireland) makes her philosophy anything but naïve.

As well as her acknowledgement that resetting this agenda takes time and persistence (there is no quick fix); there is her willingness to accept an offer from IMO Chief Operating Officer Susan Clyne for their two organisations to work together and collaborate on such non-industrial relations issues of mutual interest.
In so far as our UHL SHO is concerned, what I found interesting about his actions was how much he must care about the quality of training, and ultimately service, to speak out at potential considerable personal risk to his own progression in his chosen career.

Dr McMonagle said some of his colleagues felt equally as strong about the alleged deficiencies and they had asked him to seize the opportunity to raise the issues so they could be resolved.

He said despite these failures by the system, his colleagues all felt medicine was the only job for them and that he would even be willing to work for free.
McMonagle, who previously was not an active member of the IMO, described himself as merely holding strong views that they should be getting a basic level of training, respect and common decency, like being paid on time (including for overtime worked); and the other usual stuff people expected of an employer.

The IMO (and the Irish Hospital Consultants Association) is no longer alone in trying to flag down the general lack of common decency in the Irish health service towards NCHDs.

The HSE is willing to help too, and the trainee doctors themselves will often surprise you and take a stand, notwithstanding the risk to them.

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