DOCTORS ACROSS Ireland are expected to go on strike 'early in the New Year' after a vote organised by the Irish Medical Organisation signified an 'overwhelming' majority are in favour of industrial action.
The landmark vote is the first time that Consultant and Non-Consultant Doctor members have ever voted together for action: the final vote in the ballot was 94% in favour of industrial action with just 6% opposed.
The association intends to strike in protest of the "unjustifiable pay inequality faced by Consultants which is based solely on when they were appointed", which the IMO says is leading to huge difficulties in recruiting new Consultants to the health service.
"This historic step comes because doctors can no longer tolerate the decimation of health services in Ireland, and the life-threatening effect this is having on patients throughout the country," the IMO said.
"If the Government is serious about wide-ranging reform in the health service then it must address this crisis first, otherwise reform is doomed to failure."
In 2012, the Government slashed pay for new consultants, a decision which the organisation says "led directly to the current trolley crisis and the waiting list crisis because it has caused a shortage of desperately needed consultants to see and treat patients".
Last week, the Taoiseach offered to end the two-tier pay system, but only for consultants who agreed to treat public patients only, rather than also attending to private patients.
However, the IMO dismissed this, saying "The Taoiseach must understand that to resolve this issue will require negotioations with the IMO and not unilateral pronouncements in the Dáil."
"In the absence of such negotiations, our plans for industrial action in the New Year continue".
Dr Matthew Sadlier, former President of the IMO and a member of its Consultants' Committee, said:
“We are deeply disappointed that the Government has forced doctors to take this action, but we have exhausted every other remaining option and all the while the state of our health service has steadily disintegrated under a Government that does not value the welfare of patients.
“This pay issue is the single biggest obstacle to the functioning of our health services and providing care to our patients, and any talk of reform is just spin until this has been resolved. We have always strongly advocated reform, but any reform must be on the basis of delivering better patient care and not simply suiting an election cycle of political ideologies.
“The message from doctors is clear: enough is enough. We do not want to strike but we cannot stand by any longer and watch as our health service is hollowed out and doctors are left to pick up the pieces yet again."