Minimal disruption to health services as strike talks begin

Healthcare support staff called off a threatened strike on Thursday to allow for talks

Siptu’s Paul Bell has said he hopes an agreement can be reached to avert planned strikes next week.

Siptu’s Paul Bell has said he hopes an agreement can be reached to avert planned strikes next week.

 

There was minimal disruption to healthcare services on Thursday following the deferral of a strike by 10,000 support staff, as talks got underway at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to avert further strikes next week.

A 24-hour stoppage by groups such as healthcare assistants, laboratory aides and porters scheduled to commence on Thursday was deferred on Wednesday evening to allow for emergency talks at the WRC on Thursday and Friday.

The strike had threatened the cancellation of large numbers of scope procedures and some elective inpatient work, as well as outpatient appointments in some hospitals.

But following its deferral, the Health Service Executive (HSE) said hospitals moved to reinstate services and appointments “in so far as possible” and had contacted patients directly to advise of any appointments and procedures that could proceed.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said on Thursday that “things are getting back to normal”, but that it had not been possible to reinstate some appointments, such as those which would have required patients to fast overnight.

The Mater Hospital said it was proceeding with all previously planned appointments and procedures for patients. Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, and the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group both said its hospitals were “endeavouring to reinstate services and appointments in so far as possible”.

The South/South West Hospital Group also said it was “reinstating appointments in so far as possible” but added that outpatient services “have not been affected and are running as normal in all hospitals”.

Colonoscopies

University Hospital Limerick (UHL) said all outpatient appointments and elective procedures were going ahead as planned “with a small number of exceptions”. Most patients whose appointments were cancelled “were contacted and rescheduled”.

“A small number of patients who were scheduled for colonoscopy at UHL on Thursday will be rescheduled at a later date as the decision to defer strike action did not allow sufficient time to make the necessary preparations for the procedure,” it said.

However, Siptu has warned that preparations for further strikes, scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, would continue.

The dispute centres on what the union 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-€3,000 a year.

Speaking on his way into the WRC for talks with the Department of Public Expenditure, the Department of Health, and the HSE, Siptu’s Paul Bell said he hoped an agreement could be reached.

“The WRC has invited us in for discussion with the employer on the basis that they believe there is scope for a negotiated settlement to the ongoing dispute,” he said. “That’s a judgment that the WRC has made.

“Hopefully we can reach some sort of agreement where we will not have to take action next week but it’s very early at this stage to say. I also have to wait to see if there has been any movement in the position of the Department of Public Expenditure.

“We’re going to give it the best go we can. We don’t want to end up in an unnecessary strike action. We will stay in the process as long as we feel it is a meaningful engagement. We owe it to our members and we owe to the public.”