Minister for Health James Reilly has appealed to the Irish Medical Organisation to return to talks on working hours for junior doctors.
Junior doctors are set to strike next Tuesday.
The minister said there would be people who are waiting for operations in pain and that doctors have an obligation not to hurt patients.
Mr Reilly said sanctions proposed by the Health Service Executive to prevent the planned action have been presented to the Irish Medical Organisation.
His comments contradict claims from the IMO.
The IMO has called for an end to shifts of more than 24 hours and a commitment from the HSE that junior doctors will not work longer than 48 hours a week by the end of next year.
Mr Reilly said he began addressing the problem at the beginning of last year and said efforts were being made to end the situation by the end of 2014.