Irish health service to be hit by multiple strikes next week

Industrial unrest in the health sector escalates as ambulance staff announce action

Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation picketing outside St James’s Hospital in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation picketing outside St James’s Hospital in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Key parts of the country’s health services are now facing strikes on four days next week as industrial unrest in the sector continues to escalate.

Nurses and midwives as well as psychiatric nurses are scheduled to stage work stoppages on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week – following on from today’s strike action – as part of the ongoing dispute over pay and staffing.

Last night ambulance service staff said they would go on strike on Friday of next week in a separate row over trade union representation rights.

The 500 members of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association, a branch of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), are to hold further stoppages on February 28th and March 1st.

The ambulance personnel already held a 10-hour stoppage on this issue in late January.

About 50,000 people are likely to be affected by today’s nurses’ strike, the third 24-hour stoppage by members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation as part of a campaign over pay and staffing.

The Health Service Executive said as a result of the work stoppage all outpatient, inpatient and day surgery appointments scheduled for today had been cancelled.

The Government has insisted that it will not offer additional payments to nurses, although it said on Monday it was willing to discuss staffing, education and other non-pay issues. Nursing unions rejected this proposal.

‘Significant challenges’

Separately, an overtime ban introduced by psychiatric nurses has resulted in what the HSE called “significant challenges” in ensuring a safe service in several mental health facilities in Dublin, Cork and Galway yesterday.

The HSE said it expected the situation was “likely to worsen significantly at the change of shift in residential facilities” yesterday evening.

Members of the PNA have had an overtime ban in place since Tuesday as part of its dispute over pay and staffing issues. However, this was extended to a full 24 hours on Wednesday and Thursday, leading to difficulties being experienced in a number of mental health facilities.

The HSE said it was “continuing to engage and negotiate with the PNA in every location to ensure patient safety is maintained”.