A seven-day working week for all hospital staff would make a ‘huge difference’ to Ireland’s waiting lists – but making it happen will be ‘incredibly difficult’.
HSE chief Bernard Gloster yesterday confirmed plans to write to all hospital staff asking them to agree to the new roster to reduce Emergency Department overcrowding.
Currently, many staff, like doctors and nurses, already work a seven-day week – but others, including radiographers only work Monday to Friday.
Mr Gloster will push for a permanent seven-day roster for all hospital in the next round of public sector pay talks and, in the meantime, is asking staff to volunteer for it.
Newstalk Breakfast presenter Ciara Kelly said the plan could make a big difference – but only if staff buy into it.
“I know - and I did it myself - that doctors and nurses work weekends in hospitals, but bear in mind that it’s still a skeleton staff compared to the full staff that are on during the week.
So, five days a week the hospital runs at full tilt and seven days, other things happen to some extent - emergency stuff and maintenance stuff - but the bulk of hospital work does not occur over seven days, it occurs over five days.
“So, if we change that to keeping it running full tilt for seven days, we would see huge changes to our waiting lists.”
She said the HSE should have tried to make the change “years ago” before the recruitment and retention crisis took hold.
“If you say to people working in hospitals now, ‘oh, you should work seven days’, they don’t want to because they are already burnt out,” she said. “They are already sick of it.”
She said the current contract means they only have to work five days – even if those days are busier than they need to be.
“The terms and conditions they have, have made the system worse and harder to work in so now they don’t want to work in it and they don’t want to do any more,” she said.
“But actually, something has to give to make it better overall.
“So, I think this is a good idea but I think there is so little trust on the parts of healthcare workers for the HSE that trying to bring them with the HSE is going to be incredibly difficult.”
She agreed that hospital staff are doing an 'unbelievable job in pretty horrendous circumstances'.
“That’s the problem,” she said.
“They are already under so much pressure that asking them to a little bit more, even though it might make things long-term better, I think you are going to find it very difficult to do it.”