Strong support for nurses among those affected by strike

‘I have seen first-hand their care and kindness and incredible hard work’

Nurses and midwives preparing to march from Parnell Square to Merrion Square in Dublin for last Saturday’s city centre protest. Photograph: Alan Betson

Nurses and midwives preparing to march from Parnell Square to Merrion Square in Dublin for last Saturday’s city centre protest. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Three days of strike action and the threat of more has done little to dent support for the nurses – even among patients directly affected by the dispute.

The impact of the strike, which has led to the cancellation of thousands of operations and tens of thousands of appointments, is evident from the stories of patients who contacted The Irish Times in recent days about their cancelled treatments. Equally striking, though, is the level of support for the nurses’ cause.

Sarah Thompson, from east Clare, waited five months for an appointment with a vascular consultant in University Hospital Limerick, only for it to be cancelled last week due to the industrial action. She needs sign-off from the consultant for her application for treatment of her lymphoedema in Germany under the HSE’s treatment abroad scheme. And because she is a single parent who can travel only in the summer, she is on a tight timeline for her application.

‘Overstretched circumstances’

The consultant will see her, but she thinks that may take several months. “I still strongly support the nurses. I have been admitted to hospital two or three times in the last two years, through A&E, and I have seen first-hand their care and kindness and incredible hard work – in obvious overstretched circumstances.”

Sarah Wassell, from Templemore, Co Tipperary, says her father’s planned lymph-node biopsy was cancelled on the first day of industrial action. “This surgery is vital as it’s expected his melanoma has spread but this procedure is absolutely needed to continue his treatment.”

Nonetheless, she says she totally supports the strike, having seen nurses work “tirelessly” in emergency departments, critical care and rehabilitation.

“I’ve witnessed many areas of healthcare and can say undoubtedly that more nurses are needed. The work they put in is amazing.”

Caroline Wolfe, who missed a hospital consultation on Tuesday last week due to the strike, says it is more important for nurses to get adequate pay and have their staffing issues resolved, even if they have to strike to achieve this.

Five hours

Kathleen Heaslip said her sister-in-law had to wait in the emergency department for five hours after being brought to hospital in an ambulance. “My brother was told by a nurse that ‘it’s not their fault she is waiting so long – don’t you know there is a strike on?’.”

“I think it’s a disgrace that people who sign up to help others can so easily walk off the job. I do believe in a pay rise but we can do this in a different way. Go through the correct channel. If I downed tools at work I’d be told to go home and don’t come back.”

Shan Lin’s father has stage 1 oesophageal cancer. Due to the strike, his diagnosis was delayed by two weeks and surgery by three weeks.

‘So stressful’

“This is so terrible for my dad as if the cancer develops into stage 2, the chance of him being alive in the next five years is going to drop from 80 per cent to less than 50 per cent. Every day counts in his situation but due to the nurses’ strike, there is nothing the hospital or doctors can do.

“It is so stressful for the patient and their family that the hospital service was impacted, even for cancer patients, due to the nurses’ strike. The country needs to do better. I’m very disappointed at this situation.”