Hospital services may be disrupted on Tuesday – HSE

Cancellation of three days of strike action comes after Labour Court issues proposals

The nurses have received wide   support in their demand for increased pay. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

The nurses have received wide support in their demand for increased pay. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The Health Service Executive says it will do everything it can to restore normal services following the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s (INMO) decision to suspend industrial action planned for three days this week.

However, with proposals emerging from the Labour Court just hours before the strike by almost 40,000 nurses was due to begin on Tuesday, it says a resumption of services may not be possible in all areas.

“We expect outpatient appointments to go ahead as planned and advise anyone with an appointment for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to attend,” a spokeswoman said. “We are advising surgical patients that they will be contacted by their hospital if their procedure is going ahead.”

“We expect that Emergency Departments will be extremely busy and we would ask the public to only use these services if absolutely necessary.”

Minor injury clinics will operate as normal from Tuesday.

In advance of Tuesday’s fourth one-day strike by INMO members, appointments and procedures, along with care engagements in the community, were cancelled last week for about 27,000 patients. This included about 12,000 people who had been expecting respite, rehabilitation and older persons care.

While services on Tuesday may be considerably disrupted, this is expected to lessen considerably on Wednesday, the second planned day of this week’s INMO strikes.

Triage service

The HSE said it could not be sure exactly what services will be restored on Tuesday as in most cases arrangements are made at an individual hospital and hospital group level.

So far, about 82,000 patients have had their services disrupted over the first three days of strike action.

While the strike started in hospitals, the INMO widened industrial action last week to include respite centres for the elderly and people with disabilities.

The union said only “life-preserving” activities should continue during periods of industrial action, and this led to the cancellation of serious cancer, neuro and cardiac surgeries. In hospital emergency departments, no triage service was provided by nurses, though some derogations were allowed on an individual hospital basis where patient numbers surged or emergencies arose.

In its recommendation issued on Monday evening, the Labour Court said it was of the opinion there were “exceptional circumstances” warranting its intervention due to the “grave and extensive” implications of the dispute.

The prospect of three continuous days of industrial action this week provoked widespread concern in the health sector over the potential risk posed to patients.

Repeated surveys showed the nurses commanded the support of a big majority of people in their demand for increased pay.