Health staff will not have to make up time lost to freezing weather

Simon Harris says situation has changed since memo warning of loss of leave issued

Health service staff who cannot get to work or whose work place is closed will not have to make up the time lost, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.

Health service staff who cannot get to work or whose work place is closed will not have to make up the time lost, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.

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Health service staff who cannot get to work or whose work place is closed will receive emergency leave with pay and will not have to make up the time lost, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

He said the HSE would find a way to “acknowledge efforts” of staff who come to work during the big freeze on Thursday and Friday.

A HSE memo circulated earlier this week advised that those unable to attend work due to the severe weather may have to use their annual leave to cover any absences.

Mr Harris said the State was facing “a different situation” on Wednesday with some parts of the country under a red weather warning at the time, while others were not.

“What we need to make sure here is there’s equity for everybody, for the people who turn up to work in our emergency services today and indeed for the people, through no fault of their own, simply can’t get to work or find their workplace closed,” he told Newstalk.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation welcomed the Minister’s intervention.

All outpatient appointments and non-urgent surgeries planned for Thursday and Friday have been cancelled. The HSE said hospitals will be in touch over the coming weeks to reschedule and patients due for urgent surgery will be contacted. Mr Harris said appointments cancelled because of the weather would be rescheduled “based on clinical priority”.

Medicine delivery

The Defence Forces had assisted the HSE in more than 40 cases by Thursday afternoon including the transfer of 30 dialysis patients and the movement of critical staff and essential medicines to hospitals and hospices.

Temple Street Children’s Hospital said it was “reasonably well staffed” but faced problems accommodating staff for the night, with many city centre options booked out.

“Temporary accommodation is being set up in the hospital, we’ll just have to make it work. We were using some of the beds in the day ward on Wednesday.”

The Dublin Midlands Group, which includes St James’s Hospital, Tallaght Hospital, Nass General Hospital, the Coombe, Tullamore Hospital and Portlaoise Hospital said “some” staff hadn’t been able to turn up for work.

“The hospitals are relatively happy with the turnout. There are more staff due in this afternoon with those on later shifts being put up in hotels or staying in the hospital overnight,” the group said. “We had the civilian defence helping a consultant make it into Tullamore on Wednesday.”

The East Hospitals Group, which includes the Mater, St Vincent’s, the National Maternity Hospital, Mullingar Regional Hospital, Our Lady’s Hospital Navan and St Luke’s General Hospital Kilkenny said they were experiencing “a fairly good turnout”.

“Contingency plans were put in place in every hospital and arrangements were made where staff couldn’t turn up, for others to cover those shifts.”

The South/South West Hospitals Group, which includes Cork University Hospital, Waterford Hospital, Kerry General Hospital and Mercy University Hospital, said “there are not many [patients] coming into the hospitals”.

“The south hasn’t been impacted as much as Leinster and Dublin has, not yet anyway,” the spokesman said.

The National Ambulance Service reported a full attendance of staff on Thursday morning.

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