A four-day working week could address the recruitment and retention crisis in the health service by convincing young doctors and nurses to stay in Ireland.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, a senior Cork doctor said medical staff are leaving Ireland “in their droves” for better pay and for better working conditions abroad.
Dr Catherine Conlon, Senior Medical Officer in the Department of Public Health at St Finbarr’s Hospital, Cork said a four-day week could address many of the problems in the sector.
“COVID-19 has really focused the mind on that thing that really affects productivity and that’s burnout,” she said.
“Nowhere has that been more evident than in the healthcare sector. It has led to staff shortages, incremental stress and long hours due to COVID.
“Doctors and nurses are leaving the country in their droves for better pay and for better working conditions so, the real question is could a four-day working week, with reduced hours for the same pay, address that burnout and alleviate the real problems with recruiting into the sector?”
Dr Conlon said the four-day week means 100% pay for 80% hours.
She said a major UK survey of 500 business managers and 2,000 employees taking part in a four-day week trial found marked improvements in productivity.
“The majority of workers were healthier – much less stressed, less sick leave and key to this is the greater ability to attract and retain workers in two-thirds of businesses,” she said.
She said the improved sleep and increased physical activity a four-day week can bring offer major public health benefits – potentially saving money in the health service.
“We know that stress impacts on a good night’s sleep and an extra night’s sleep during the week can make a huge difference,” she said.
“There is more time for physical activity and we know that lack of physical activity is linked to cardiac disease, diabetes, cancer and depression.
“That has huge costs for the health sector so if we can be a little bit more innovative and imaginative and creative in terms of the way we employ our staff, that could have financial benefits as well.”
Dr Conlon said the plan could encourage young doctors and nurses to remain in Ireland and lead to a “happier, less stressed and less sleep-deprived workforce.”
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