HSE says healthcare strike will have significant impact on services

Harris says decision to strike on Wednesday before Labour Court talks is ‘extraordinary’

Minister for Health  Simon Harris said he hoped the dispute would be referred to the Labour Court today. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister for Health Simon Harris said he hoped the dispute would be referred to the Labour Court today. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has said a strike by 10,000 health service support staff on Wednesday will have a significant impact on services in nearly 40 hospitals.

The health authority said the impact would vary between hospitals.

A planned 24-hour strike is set to go ahead from 8am on Wednesday, which the HSE expects to have a significant impact on services in 38 hospitals across the State.

The HSE said on Tuesday significant numbers of procedures involving scopes for patients would have to be cancelled. It also said some elective in-patient procedures would have to be deferred.

The HSE said as a result of the strike by the support staff, who are represented by Siptu, there would be reduced outpatient services, reduced laboratory services for GPs, reduced catering services for both patients and staff and reduced theatre.

“Patients are being contacted by their local hospital or healthcare facility in the event that their scheduled procedure or service will be affected by the dispute,” it said.

On Tuesday, the HSE’s national director of community operations, David Walsh, warned that if a further three days of industrial action threatened by health support workers goes ahead next week there will be a significant impact on the HSE’s ability to provide services.

He told RTÉ Radio’s News at One that the public should consider that their procedures are going ahead tomorrow unless they are contacted directly from the HSE.

The HSE said it will keep the public informed of developments on its social media channels and website www.hse.ie.

Siptu’s health division organiser Paul Bell outside the Workplace Relations Commission. Photograph: Collins
Siptu’s health division organiser Paul Bell outside the Workplace Relations Commission. Photograph: Collins

‘Extraordinary’

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said the decision by staff to strike in a row over pay before going to the Labour Court was “absolutely extraordinary.”

Mr Harris said it was “bizarre for patients up and down the country that such chaos would be brought to our health service without even trying to resolve this at the Labour Court”.

Mr Harris said he hoped the dispute would be referred to the Labour Court on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, an emergency medicine consultant warned that while Wednesday’s strike does not pose a significant risk to patients it will cause widespread disruption.

Dr Fergal Hickey said there will be delays and inconvenience for patients and staff during the planned strike.

Dr Hickey said the strike will cause problems for Emergency Departments as there will be no access to porters to bring patients to their wards or radiology. Cleaning the department will also be a concern as over a 24 hour period there are significant “spills of blood and other bodily fluids.”

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said the strike’s consequences would be “extremely disruptive and distressing” for many patients.

Negotiated

Siptu health divisional organiser Paul Bell said the trade union would prefer a negotiated settlement that did not impact on patient services.

A 24-hour stoppage scheduled for last week was deferred to allow for talks between Siptu and the HSE at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). Those talks began last Thursday and concluded yesterday without agreement.

Mr Donohoe’s spokeswoman said the Government has constructively and positively engaged to try to resolve the dispute and made a significant offer last Friday. This “decent and fair offer” was sufficient for Siptu to call off its strike planned for last week, she said.

The dispute centres on what Siptu described as a failure of the Government to implement the findings of a job evaluation scheme for healthcare support staff which could see some staff receive increases of € 1,500 to €3,000 a year.

Senior Government sources suggested it was prepared to pay about one third of the job evaluation award next year with the balance in 2021 and 2022.

The source said meeting Siptu’s demand would represent a 7 per cent pay rise for the staff concerned next year in addition to increases under the general pay round and the extra remuneration provided by Government to recent entrants to the public service.

Mr Bell said some €16.2 million was owed to his members yet the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had only offered €1.2 million.

Hospitals not affected by planned strike