Simon Harris: Doctors have to cancel Christmas holidays


The Minister of Health left the debate on Christmas leave among doctors saying that Taoiseach was rightly urging hospital staff to cancel holidays during the holiday season.

When military words rose, Simon Harris said that Leo Varadkar was "completely right". However, he transferred the responsibility for implementing the measure at HSE, namely: "Hospital management is in charge of ensuring this."

Mr Varadkar paid special attention to nurses and hospital advisers, in particular to emergency medical advisers, in his call for a reduction in leave.

Yesterday, he doubled his remarks, on the day that nearly 600 patients were left to the hospital.

Mr Harris's decision to add his support aroused the dissatisfaction of the trade unions, including Irish nurses and midwives (INMO), whose members are currently preparing for a strike.

INA, the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) and the Irish Hospital Advisory Association, have accused Mr Varadkara of deterring a real crisis, including the absence of a so-called winter plan and an inadequate bed.

IHCA President, Donal O'Hanlon, said that the Taoiseach remarks attempted to "ignore the very serious issue of a hospital bed lack". He said that the ticket crisis was not just a Christmas problem, it was a "crisis all year round" due to a lack of capital investment in public hospitals.

Dr. Hannon said that hundreds of thousands of patients were on trolley and waiting lists because there were not enough beds and more than 500 permanent hospital jobs were not met.

INMO Secretary General Phil Ní Shéaghdha said that the comments "exclusively discouraged the real issue, that is, there is no winter plan".

She said that they had been looking for ED meeting for some time, but the first available date for the HSE and the Ministry of Health was November 19th.

HSE said that "it is currently exploring options related to the availability and impact of this winter under an additional € 10 million that are not funded, and the final plan will be submitted this week to the Ministry of Health for approval."

IAEM President Emily O'Conor said she had lost why Mr Varadkar was "so flammable" and that "focusing on ED and vacation cancellation was a completely false end of the stick".

"I do not know if it's a political move to get away from the lack of a bed," she said, adding that "she would not do anything to attract staff to work for HSE".

She said that the structure of the health service is such that most services – except ED – operate five days a week, and until it turns into a seven-day service, there are always problems with overpopulation.

An oncologist and former senator John Crown said that hospital workers were entitled to national holidays.

To suggest Taoiseach to cancel the vacation, when Dáil takes three weeks, he's rich, is not he?

Taoiseach said: "It makes sense if you keep your job or your company well, always make sure you reach the highest demand with top-notch resources."

Mr Harris said that significant staffing levels in hospitals, including emergency departments, diagnostic services, community services and primary care, are sufficient to enable staff to provide the services that patients need during this period.

He said that this would "help avoid a very large increase at the beginning of the new year."

He said that the lessons learned from last winter crisis meant that this time was the number of employees who were part of the planning for the winter and holiday periods.

"This is part of the discussions that take place between the department and the HSE," he said.

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