'When I get home after a 32-hour shift I just want to crawl into bed'
A DUBLIN doctor has blamed marathon shifts for his decision to emigrate.
Extremely long hours enforced on Irish hospital doctors are forcing many of them to leave in search of better working conditions.
Dublin-based Dr Toby Gilbert (28) says he is one of those fed up with the situation here.
He told the Herald he worked a single 32-hour continuous shift treating patients at a hospital last week as part of a 80-hour week.
"That's not in the best interests of the patients and neither is it in my best interests," he said.
The Malahide medic said he is leaving Ireland next February to seek a job in Australia with a healthier work/life balance.
As a hospital registrar specialising in kidney-related ailments, he often works 80 hours a week and averages around 65 hours at his post each week, he said.
He believes Australian hospitals can offer better working conditions and opportunities to get extra qualifications far faster than in cash-strapped Irish hospitals that are suffering significant shortages of doctors.
The experience of his fiancee, a family practitioner who has worked in Australia, helped to influence his decision to emigrate.
The contrast between practising medicine in Ireland and Australia can be significant. Irish doctors have less access to diagnostics and job satisfaction is less.
Another reason for leaving is that hospital doctors in Ireland are given far less time to devote to formal training and, instead, are kept extremely busy treating patients. The situation has led to a serious shortage of doctors in Irish hospitals, because they are increasingly regarded as unattractive places to work compared with hospitals abroad.
He said that 44pc of interns at his Dublin hospital have indicated that they plan to leave Ireland to seek work abroad and that they intend to remain abroad for a number of years, at least.
Cutbacks and bed closures in hospitals here have resulted in patients waiting very long hours to be seen by doctors.
"I have to apologise on a daily basis to people who have been kept waiting for so long.
"I regularly have to see patients who may have been waiting on chairs for a full day before they are seen by me," he said.
"I'm getting married in October, but my long shifts prevented me from seeing my fiancee last week. We intend to have children and those kind of hours are not suitable for a relationship or for having children.
"When I get home after working a 32-hour shift I just want to crawl straight into bed... Those kind of hours are not conducive to having a long, happy life," he said.
He said work rosters could be organised far better in Irish hospitals to prevent doctors having to work such long shifts that are not in anybody's interests.
He said the Irish health service still gets "good value" from hospital doctors whose absentee rate is way below 4pc because the culture is to turn up for work, no matter what.
"Morale among doctors is certainly not as high as it was five years ago," he said.
Irish Medical Organisation president Dr Ronan Boland told the Herald that the IMO has continuously raised serious concerns regarding the issue of non-consultant hospital doctor shortages with HSE and Government officials. He said there was a need to look not only at recruitment at hospitals but also at retention of current doctors.