Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Niamh Smyth says threatened wildcat strikes at Emergency Departments must be called off.

A number of hospitals were affected by the action earlier this week, when some agency staff refused to turn up to work.

Deputy Smyth commented, “While there are undoubtedly issues within the health system which need to be urgently addressed, it is completely unacceptable that the already difficult situation being experienced in Emergency Departments across the country should be exacerbated in this way.

“Only last week, my party revealed that the HSE is heading for an overrun of some €80 million on agency costs in 2017. So it is understandable that they should be seeking to reduce payments to agency staff.

“However, the fact that acute hospitals are so dependent on locums shows how the HSE has failed to make Emergency Departments a safe and attractive work environment. We have to recognise that doctors and other medical staff experience high levels of burnout because of the conditions they’re forced to work in.

“We simply have to break the vicious circle whereby the intolerable levels of overcrowding have a detrimental effect on recruitment to emergency medicine, which in itself results in huge expense to the HSE in terms of agency fees and means that the resources to reduce overcrowding are inadequate.

“Clearly the HSE cannot continue to spend hundreds of millions on agency staff every year, but it must recognise and remunerate those doctors who choose to work in Emergency Departments appropriately.

“We need a special task force to examine recruitment and retention specifically in Ireland’s Emergency Departments. The continued dependency on locums is not a sustainable option.”