‘We want our patients to be safe and we want them to have good care’

For the 40,000 nurses and midwives striking over pay, it’s about more than just the money

Nurses on picket duty at St James's Hospital Dublin are appealing to the government to enter negotiations to resolve the current dispute with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. Video: Bryan O'Brien


Erica Shanley, a nurse with 22 years’ experience, said “patient safety” was at “the heart” of why she and her colleagues had taken to the picket line.

One of 40,000 nurses and midwives from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) who are striking over pay, the Limerick-based nurse emphasised the campaign was about more than just a few extra quid in the pocket.

“Obviously we want pay restoration. We are all very highly qualified. I’ve a first class masters which isn’t recognised in our profession, yet other similar professions would be getting bursaries on a yearly basis for extra qualifications.”

“It’s about equality,” she said.

“But, the heart of this is safe staffing. We want our patients to be safe and we want them to have good care. None of us want to be out here, we’d much rather be doing what we love to do, and that’s nursing and taking care of our patients.”

Ms Shanley, who works in the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), was joined by more than 100 other nurses on that hospital’s picket line on Tuesday, the second day of national strike action.

Support from members of the public was strong on the ground, although some patients spoke of the added difficulty accessing services this week.

Holding area

Daniel Hickey complained he and a loved one had been sitting on “uncomfortable” chairs in the hospital’s emergency department (ED) patient holding area for a total of 15 hours.

UHL was the most overcrowded hospital in the country on Tuesday, with 59 patients waiting on trolleys – 35 in the ED and 24 on surrounding wards.

Fair play to the nurses, they do everything they can. They need to go on strike

Mr Hickey, who regularly attends the hospital to be treated with a debilitating condition, brought a loved one to the overcrowded Limerick ED at 7pm on Monday. Fifteen hours later the pair were still sitting on chairs in a waiting area.

“We’ve been sitting here all night, the chairs are not comfortable either. It’s still crowded and packed and it’s not comfortable. We would have been better off going home and coming back out another day.”

Full support

Mr Hickey said despite the wait he fully supported the nurses standing on the picket line outside. “I [say] fair play to the nurses, they do everything they can. They need to go on strike; they deserve better money. I hope they get it.”

Asked about Mr Hickey’s case, a spokesperson for UHL said it “cannot comment on individual cases for reasons of patient confidentiality”.

It added: “The emergency department at University Hospital Limerick is extremely busy today due to strike action and patients are experiencing long wait times in the ED.

“We apologise for this and regret that patients have to wait but we wish to reassure patients and families that we are working to ensure that the sickest patients are seen as a priority.”