Children’s hospitals to postpone procedures on two nurses’ strike days next week
In-patient and day cases for next Tuesday and Thursday to be rescheduled
Peter Hughes, general secretary of the PNA, said overtime is voluntary and therefore cannot be construed as industrial action. The issue can be resolved, and there should be no penalty on staff who take part in the ban, he said. Photograph: Getty Images
The three children’s hospitals in Dublin are to postpone planned in-patient and day case procedures as well as out-patient appointments scheduled for both next Tuesday and Thursday, February 5th and 7th, due to planned strike action by nurses.
The hospitals have also warned that children who are due to be admitted as in-patients or day cases on days before or after the two planned strike days next week may also have these appointments deferred.
Other hospitals are expected to begin notifying patients on Friday of cancellations of planned surgery, day case procedures as well as out-patient appointments scheduled to take place next Tuesday.
It is unclear at this stage how many hospitals will also postpone procedures planned for Thursday.
Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) are to stage two more strikes on Tuesday and Thursday as part of their dispute over pay and staffing issues.
The HSE estimated that 25,000 patients had procedures or appointments in both hospitals and community facilities cancelled this week as a result of the work stoppage by nurses this week.
Mental health services
Earlier on Thursday, the HSE warned that mental health services could face severe disruption if industrial action by psychiatric nurses continued over a number of days.
The HSE said it experienced challenges in nine mental health facilities on Thursday morning as a result of an overtime ban put in place by the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA).
HSE national contingency coordinator Bernard Gloster said in four locations the problems in relation to the changeover of staff continued until lunchtime.
He said there had been active talks with the PNA about securing derogations from the overtime ban in these areas.
He said while there were challenges in nine sites on Thursday that would continue to grow if the number of days the overtime ban continued grows.
He said as a result of the overtime ban the night shift was delayed in going off duty.
The PNA action on Thursday followed a one-day strike of nearly 40,000 nurses on Wednesday.
In advance of the overtime ban, the PNA warned that given the shortage of staff there would be insufficient nursing personnel to operate all services once the ban was introduced. The union s also said that where the full complement of staff was not available for a shift, the union’s members would not work.
It suggested the HSE may seek to use managers to fill gaps and to redeploy nursing staff from the community to acute services.
Peter Hughes, the general secretary of the PNA, said the problem with recruitment and retention or nurses will not go away.
He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland it is this is compounded by the “huge reliance” on overtime in the mental health services, he said.
While the Public Service Pay Commission has said it does not believe that pay has anything to do with the retention of staff, Mr Hughes disputed this, adding that vacancy rates have increased by 40 per cent over the past year.
He said the Bring Them Home campaign, which began last year, resulted in only six psychiatric nurses returning from the United Kingdom.
Mr Hughes said any proposal would be brought to members for consideration but added they have not received any yet despite spending three days at the Workplace Relations Commission last week without any negotiations taking place.
Mr Hughes said overtime is voluntary and therefore cannot be construed as industrial action. The issue can be resolved, and there should be no penalty on staff who take part in the ban, he said.