Phoenix Care Centre may close due to nurses’ action, HSE warns

Psychiatric Nurses Association and HSE to hold final talks at WRC today

The Phoenix Care Centre on the North Circular Road in Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

The Phoenix Care Centre on the North Circular Road in Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

A state-of-the-art medical facility for seriously-ill psychiatric patients may have to be closed because of industrial action by psychiatric nurses, the Health Service Executive has said.

The 50-bed Phoenix Care Centre in north Dublin currently is caring for four patients with profound psychiatric issues who cannot suitably be cared for in a normal psychiatric unit.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and the HSE will hold final talks at the Workplace Relations Commission today in a bid to avert closure, though meetings over the last week have failed.

The HSE is putting contingency plans in place to move patients to other care centres if the psychiatric nurses go ahead with a proposed overtime ban from tomorrow or Friday.

Dispute

The issues at hand are part of a broader, long-running dispute over training, staffing levels and recruitment of psychiatric nurses who have emigrated. Nurses at the Phoenix centre have been engaging in low-level industrial relations action, including not using mobile phones and not fulfilling clerical and administrative duties.

Withdrawal of overtime

The PNA says the withdrawal of overtime will not lead to a curtailment of services at the facility and any move by the HSE to close the centre from tomorrow would be premature.

PNA general secretary Des Kavanagh said: “If they’re telling us that without overtime they can’t keep critical services like this open, what have they been doing for the last number of years when the staff numbers have been deteriorating all the time?”

Should the overtime ban proceed later this week, the HSE has said that it would decide whether contingency plans are necessary based on the effect the ban has on service delivery.

A spokeswoman for the HSE was not in a position to confirm where patients will be transferred to as part of the contingency plans.

“We’re drawing up contingency plans in the event that it is closed to admissions . . . We can’t act until we know if [nurses] are going to escalate industrial action,” she said.