Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that he does not blame non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) for their recent ballot for strike action.
“I don't blame them for balloting the way they did - it was in the high 90s, they are deeply frustrated, what they need is solutions, they need solutions now,” the Minister told RTÉ radio’s News at One.
“I'm determined that these legacy issues will be stopped. Ireland must be one of the most attractive places in the world for doctors to train - on the consultant track, on the GP track and right now it's not.
“NCHDs have been raising with me all of the issues of concern, issues around working hours, working shifts of 24 hours sometimes 36 hours, they've told me that they don't have adequate facilities in hospitals.
"Sometimes they don't have access to food on very long shifts, it's not right. We need to treat our people well, and I'm determined that we're going to do that.”
Mr Donnelly said he has instructed the HSE to immediately deal with the issue of NCHDs facing emergency tax every time they move hospital, which can be every six months. He said he wanted action now, in the coming months, not in years.
“I've instructed the HSE to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency and they're looking at various ways that can happen.”
The Minister added that the money was already in place to improve facilities in hospitals, “but what we need here is a fundamental and radical change in how we treat our NCHDs and that's what the task force is for.”
Mr Donnelly said that things were happening now, he said he had instructed the task force to come to him immediately on issues so he could act on them.
When asked about the controversy surrounding comments made by Dr Noirin Russell of Cervical Check, Mr Donnelly said he had complete confidence in Dr Russell and the service, which he described as “one of the best in the world.”
Dr Russell had given a comprehensive apology and addressed the comments she made, he said.