Nurses’ union defers decision on industrial action

INMO will not finalise strike plan until after new talks with Government

File image of INMO members protesting outside St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke

File image of INMO members protesting outside St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has deferred a decision on when to start its planned industrial action, to allow time for further talks with the Government.

In December last, members of the INMO voted by more 90 per cent in favour of industrial action over the recruitment and retention of nurses.

On Tuesday the union’s executive council decided to hold a special meeting on January 30th to review the situation following further discussions with health service management on staffing, recruitment and retention issues.

The decision was taken after the Department of Health, the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Public Expenditure agreed to table initial written proposals on these issues on Friday and to resume talks with the union next week.

The INMO said it expected the new discussions would begin next Monday.

It said that if health service management did not put forward “substantial” proposals on the issues, the council meeting at the end of this month would finalise a timeframe for industrial action.

The union also decided that it would tell the HSE no additional beds could be opened in public hospitals unless agreed levels of additional nursing staff were available on a continuous basis.

“This is the last chance for health service management to demonstrate they understand the extent of the problem and come forward with concrete proposals, under the headings of staffing, recruitment and retention, which will begin resolving this deepening crisis,” said INMO president Martina Harkin-Kelly.

“Management must clearly understand that the decision of my executive council provides them with two weeks within which to demonstrate, after years of neglect and disrespect, that they are now committed to recognising that patient care is being compromised; nurses and midwives are completely overworked; and their health and safety is being neglected.”

INMO committees are being established in all workplaces represented by the union in preparation for industrial action.

Nurses have also been told to inform local health management where they feel staffing levels prevent them from engaging in safe practice.

Trolley crisis

The union’s decision to defer any industrial action may ease the pressure on hospital emergency departments, where 527 patients were waiting for admission on trolleys or in wards on Tuesday.

Letterkenny General Hospital was worst affected, with 38 patients waiting for admission.

Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda, had 35 and Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar, had 34.

Meanwhile, talks will get under way on Wednesday aimed at drawing up a new contract between general practitioners and the State.

The renegotiation of the existing GP contract is one of the key priorities of Minister for Health Simon Harris, who sees it as central to his plans of shifting the emphasis in the health service from acute hospitals to primary care.

The Minister has said on a number of occasions that the current contract is more than 40 years old.

The talks are expected to be largely procedural rather than dealing with substantive issues.