Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher has said there is no excuse for the continued exploitation of junior doctors in direct breach of the EU’s Working Time Directive.

Deputy Kelleher has warned the Government against continually dragging its heels on complying with the Directive and on addressing ongoing issues with availability of hospital consultants.

“Ireland will rack up huge fines from Europe if the Government continues to ignore the fact that our junior doctors are being exploited to fill major gaps in consultant cover. I am urging the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar not to bury his head in the sand about this crucial issue which lies at the very heart of our health services,” said Deputy Kelleher.

“Minister Varadkar and the HSE have completely failed to address this issue to date despite repeated commitments to do so.  It is not safe to continue to allow non-consultant hospital doctors to work far beyond the acceptable number of hours without a break. Not only is it bad for the health of the doctors, it puts patient safety at risk.

“The Directive requires that non-consultant hospital doctors work no more than 48 hours a week on average, receive breaks of 30 minutes every 6 hours and receive 11 hours of rest each 24 hours. At the moment these rules are being broken left right and centre as junior doctors are continually expected to fill in gaps in our frontline health service.

“This issue goes to the core of patient safety in our hospital system.  But so far the Government has been all talk and no action. I am calling Minister Varadkar to act speedily to ensure that junior doctors have safe working hours that promote the best possible care for all patients.”