Ireland’s Junior Doctors Have “Dangerously Long Working Hours”

The European Union (EU) began to regulate “working time” in 1993. The work week is limited to forty-eight hours, averaged over four, six or twelve months; minimum rest periods between shifts are required; and, an employee must receive one day off for every seven days of work and two days off for fourteen days of work. Ireland implemented measures in accordance with the EU working-time directive; however, the measures did not apply to junior physicians. By 2009, junior physicians’ hours were regulated also, and limited to 48 per week, but the practice implemented by health institutions has not complied with the law. The EU issued a formal notice to Ireland to address its non-compliance in 2011. Also, physician groups are advocating against what they call “dangerously long working hours.” However, some wonder if the working-hours directive directly conflicts with the duty of the public health system to provide “around-the-clock care.”

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